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Kids on cross country skis or snowshoes? It is not only about child obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain function – it's about fun. What can the kids do after school or on the weekends? Have you set your plans for the school breaks this coming winter? The winter can be snowy yet mild and great for a weekly program or a family winter vacation with plenty of cross-country (xc) skiing and snowshoeing, so gather up the kids and head to the hills. There are xc ski resorts that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. And xc skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories they'll have for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of xc skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. And according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, studies support the idea that exercise can improve learning efficiency for kids. In short, exercise and better fitness are associated with better brain function. Here are some samples of the unique xc ski and snowshoe programming at xc ski areas this winter:
Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH has 3-day camps perfect for holiday weeks where the kids do different activities including XC skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. The Trail Tracker program is free everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat. The Kids Ski Fest on Jan 29 with a terrain park, group games, bean bag biathlon, Team Sprint Relays, treats to eat at the Cabin, a lollipop race and more. Mini-lessons will be offered in both morning and afternoon for first-time youth skiers. Special trail pass rate for participants and free rentals for kids.
Lapland Lake in Northville, NY has the Reindeer Rally season-long program for kids supervised by skilled, kid-friendly, incredibly entertaining PSIA-certified instructors. The program, which is for kids aged 5 – 11 runs 90 minutes on weekends and holiday weeks. The "on-ski" games include Toilet Bowl Tag, Limbo, Spider (flag tag), Soccer on Snow, Relay Slalom, Caterpillar Relay, Sharks & Minnows, Scavenger Hunt, Elephant Hunt & more!
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in the Jackson Village in the NH's White Mountains has a kid's terrain garden and the Thursday After-School Program. Kids are encouraged to ski or snowshoe to a 3-kilometer destination to the Cocoa Cabana, which is open on weekends. Upon arrival kids that ski around a little Anklebiter's Race Course and get a medal. Jackson has created a variety of incentives to help parents get their kids enthused about XC skiing.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 45 locations across the nation such as Cable Natural History Museum in WI; the Willows Ecology Center in Lapeer, MI; Bogus Basin in ID; and the Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center in Nederland, CO. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands Web site or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.
The Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation runs one of the largest introductory kids cross country ski programs of its kind in the country at the Theodore Wirth Park, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, MN. Some 600 kids from six elementary and two middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation's programming. Kids are taught how to ski and use the equipment as well as given info about fitness and nutrition. The Foundation grooms a small trail at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby kids can trade in their old equipment for similar or upgraded equipment or gear in a different category. The Frisco Nordic Center, which is on the way to Breckenridge, will hold a Kid's Festival Fun Day in the spring.
Methow Trails in Winthrop, WA has two StorySki trails that feature 1 km loops with illustrated story book pages on large panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. And the trails are free for kids under the age of 17!
A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Ski New Hampshire "4th and 5th Grade Passport" offers trail passes for one visit at the state's XC ski resorts. The Michigan "Cold is Cool Passport" requires that an adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a $15 cost associated with the passport. In the Burlington, VT area, the Catamount Trails Association is conducting the Ski Cubs youth program for building skills, fitness, winter ecology and fun adventure. The program is free and provides kids with gear for skiing and snowshoeing. The WinterKids organization in Maine also has a variety of programs for thousands of kids each winter.
Smuggler's Notch Resort in VT is known for family programming. The one and a half hour XC ski lesson for kids happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis. Snowshoe programs at Smuggler's include the Cider Walk and the Sugar on Snow Trek.
Also in VT, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center's kids program focuses on the development of basic Nordic skiing skills as well as natural history, games, and orienteering. They explore the extensive trail system of Bolton Valley using Nordic Quest Poems as maps. At the end of each Quest they test the kids' ski skills with fun games like ski soccer, tag, obstacle courses and snowball biathlon.
These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. And they're committed to helping kids develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activities…and as the kids can attest they are also just plain fun. Photos: XC Ski Kids by Fischer Nordic; Snowshoe Dad & Kids by Smuggler's Notch Resort.
Smuggler's Notch Resort, known as a prime Vermont family destination has one of the most comprehensive mixes of snowshoe programs available this winter; for families with young kids, and outings for adults or families with older kids who want a bit more in terms of the length of the trek, the topography covered, and the insights shared about the natural world and outdoor skills. Snowshoe enthusiasts can find a different guided outing to do practically each day, as well as explore the trail network on their own.
Programs are scheduled for specific days and times at different prices for adult and children so check the Smuggler's website. Special Family Snowshoe Programs that are easy include the Family Snowshoe Cider Walk, which is an educational and fun guided trek on the special kids' trail, followed by hot apple cider at the Nordic Center. The Sugar On Snow Snowshoe Trek is where you will learn a bit about the history and process of Maple Sugaring. Upon your return to the Nordic Center, enjoy a sweet treat of Sugar on Snow, a Vermont tradition.
There are snowshoe hikes to a cozy cabin and treks available to learn about Vermont history, wildlife, and ecology as well as winter survival skills and tips. Learn about the animal tracks, habitat, and local flora while experiencing the scenic winter landscape.
Intermediate snowshoers can ride to the top of the Morse lift to explore backcountry terrain at a high elevation or do a trek to learn about maple sugaring with a sample of pure maple syrup.
Smuggler's also offers private snowshoe guided adventures, where you choose your own adventure daily by appointment. Intermediate snowshoe tours include the Sweets & Snowshoes Trek, which is a guided, enchanted evening snowshoe trek through lantern lit woods to a rustic pavilion alight with the glow of candles. Once there you will enjoy a warm fire, a selection of local handmade dessert pastries, coffee by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters or hot chocolate served in a keepsake mug. This is a beautiful backcountry experience!
The Top of the Notch Snowshoe Adventure Dinner is one of the most popular programs on Tuesdays, a dramatic and delicious dining experience atop Sterling Mountain (18 & older please). The Sterling lift transports you to The Top of The Notch, a mountain cabin lit only by candles. The renowned Hearth & Candle Restaurant serves a gourmet meal with appetizer, salad, choice of main course and a famous dessert. After dinner, work off those calories with a 40 minute snowshoe down to the Base Lodge. Advance registration at The Guest Service Desk is required. It takes off at off at 4:10 PM and the package includes lift access, snowshoes, and dinner for $69.
Dinner choices typically include seafood chowder or venison chili for the warming first course, and Vermont chicken breast with cheddar cheese and sliced apples, pork tenderloin, and vegetable lasagna for entrees. Warm apple crisp is the dessert. The cabin is a really congenial setting with candlelight and large tables. The tour around the summit is beautiful, whether you're enjoying it by starlight or with falling snow, and many of Smuggler's return guests enjoy the dinner on each visit.
Smuggler's guides recommend that snowshoers use poles. On a snowshoeing trail or in the backcountry, you never know what features lurk below the snow; you can expect to encounter at least one log to step over, snow potholes, sideslopes, deep snow and ups and downs. Poles provide additional stability in these situations. Plus, the poles provide a measure of upper body exercise, assuring a well-rounded workout. Lower Photo: Smuggler's Notch family
In early September, the Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, Canada had a late summer snowstorm and at the same time it was announced that they expected to be open for cross country (XC) skiing on October 18. This is a very early date for XC skiing in the northern hemisphere and they were able to do it because they have snowmaking on the trails, a legacy from the 1988 Olympics in Alberta.
More and more XC ski areas are investing in snowmaking. Trapp Family Lodge steeped in tradition in Stowe, VT has been added to this ever increasing list of XC ski resort snowmakers. The list of XC ski area operators that produce machine-made snow is now at about 30 ski areas. The list also includes Rikert Nordic Center, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Sleepy Hollow Inn, and Mountain Top Resort, in VT; Bretton Woods Nordic Center, the Nordic Center at Waterville Valley, and Great Glen Trails in NH, Pineland Farms and Quarry Road Rec Area in ME; Weston Ski Track in MA; Breckenridge Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center in CO; and Royal Gorge in CA.
Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.
Twenty years ago, one industry consultant dubbed the XC ski resort quandary as "precipitation roulette," and some business-oriented reasons to install snowmaking include operational security to guarantee skiing programs and staffing; competitive advantage against other XC ski resorts that do not have machine-made snow; and guaranteeing snow cover in important holiday periods (which can represent more than 30 percent of annual winter business).
The necessary elements of a snowmaking operation include cold temperatures, water, power, and system components such as piping, pumps, compressors, and snow guns. The power requires both manpower and energy supplied by electricity or fuel. There are many industry horror stories about the night hours and difficulty of the work associated with snowmaking for XC skiing. Getting the snow to efficiently cover a narrow corridor trail is also a challenge. Many operations simply cover a field and then move the snow to the trails.
Pineland Farms in Gloucester, ME is making snow because it wants to ensure its ability to host local school and club race programs. In Huntington, VT, Sleepy Hollow's system is powered by solar energy while snowmakers used machine-made snow on 2 km of trails at Canmore Nordic Centre to run early season programs for racing teams from across North America.
But the most significant issue to embark on snowmaking has always been the investment required for many XC ski businesses that are small and seasonal. It is now at a point where operators at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden, VT decided that snowmaking was a higher priority than selling retail products at the XC ski center. Snowmaking supports so many aspects of the business from rental operations and ski lessons to dog sledding and snowshoeing. In terms of the guest perspective, winter guests expect to book travel to a destination and get the experience that was desired…and that includes snow! Who knows, perhaps there will be a day sometime soon when snowmaking will be a basic aspect of XC skiing at commercial resorts.
Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH is planning to develop a "ski park" this winter to help kids and adults to have fun on the snow while developing basic cross country (XC) skiing skills.
In recent years, terrain-based learning has been incorporated into snowboarding instruction at alpine ski areas. It is a natural progression for it to spread to Nordic ski areas, too. Designed instruction areas are created with natural or machine-made snow and can be shaped quickly with a snowcat combining flat and hilly terrain conducive to learning, skier improvement, and fun. This learning terrain helps the learner to have fun by removing fear from sliding out of control and perhaps even adding a fairyland setting.
Sue Weymss, Great Glen's Ski Director commented that she first saw the idea of snow features in a book called "Teaching Children to Ski" and has been experimenting with terrain features and a fun obstacle course for the area's annual one day Kids SkiFest for the last few years. "We want to extend the terrain features to the entire season with snow roller coasters, trail bumps with rises and dips, a maze with markers, hula hoop arches, and more."
Kids have always been interested in building jumps and skiing kamikaze for kicks. With snowmaking at so many of the XC ski areas, operators can now consider building more terrain-based elements for specific purposes. Such elements might include elongated bowls, quarter pipes, rolling hills, spines, mounds, rails, boxes, and such.
The instructional terrain concept has been shown to allow faster technique learning progression by aiding balance and body awareness and it also helps with depth perception and ease of class segmentation (for instance, class age or fitness divisions).
The terrain could have a flat instruction area sloped a few percent to facilitate proper learning of stance, glide, and turning. Some rolling terrain with interspersed bumps could resemble trail skiing. Hill terrain with steeper slopes can have flat runouts that make the skier feel more safe and in control. Depending on the slope and length of runout, hills can provide the setting for downhill technique, telemark turns, and even slalom courses.
Great Glen is looking at various locations for the planned area on its property and one idea is to have it visible for parents and grandparents to watch their kids have fun in the snow. Wemyss said, "We're family-oriented offering a compact and safe area. Kids love the tunnel and skiing to our tubing park. We see parents who feel comfortable letting the kids go to ski on the trails themselves." Terrain parks that help new skiers build ski skills and confidence just could go a long way for a great time XC skiing and for a lifetime of fun in the outdoors.
Winter Trails Day is the day when people can try snowshoeing or cross country skiing for free at a participating location. Save the date for Winter Trails Day - Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.
For people who are new to winter sports, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are quick to learn and fun for all ages, making them perfect for families and groups and these recreational activities are a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise.
There will be experts and the equipment on hand to help people get started, all you have to do is show up ready to have fun and discover your new winter passion! Go for a short guided snowshoe hike or get an introductory cross country ski lesson to see what it's all about.
Winter Trails organizers offered step-by-step advice for the event:
Winter Trails Day Prep
1. Get excited to learn something new and to get outside this winter.
2. Find some really fun friends to join you (optional).
3. Visit the Winter Trails website at: WinterTrails.org, go to the "find a site" section.
4. Find a location you like, or near you, or a cool event description that catches your eye.
5. Complete the online registration and print the completed acknowledgment from to bring on Winter Trails Day.
On Winter Trails Day
1. Get up early and have a good breakfast.
2. Dress in clothes that will be comfortable outside in winter conditions. Don't forget a hat, gloves and a camera.
3. On arrival, go to Registration, but with a completed form this should be a breeze.
4. Get on some gear and have fun.
Winter Trails Day involves trails groups and cross country ski resorts and centers nationwide, and introduces thousands of kids and adults to these snow sports each year. To find a participating location, visit the Find A Site page or for more info click the Winter Trails website.
California mountains suffered a terrible drought last winter with very little snow which translated to excessively low water levels. A recent article in Skiing Magazine looked at last winter's drought in California and its impact on skiing in the Sierra Mountains. There is snowfall data from 1879 to the present, which reveals that wide swings of snowpack are the norm. Only a few winter's ago (2010-11), the California ski resorts recorded as much as 800 inches of snow…and that deluge was not even in the top five winters on record!
XCSkiResorts.com spoke with some cross country ski area operators to discuss the California drought and mayhem on snow-related businesses and the conclusion is that XC ski areas are pretty resilient when faced with winter weather woes.
Paul Peterson of Bear Valley Nordic Center commented, "Thanks to a huge summer grooming effort last summer, we were open for 120 days in a row last winter. It was a bit grim from a snow depth standpoint but we are very adept at snow farming and we kept it going. Fat bikes were part of the fun as well with five new Surly Fat Bikes in the rental fleet."
South of Lake Tahoe, Sorensen's Resort reported good snow on the ground from Thanksgiving on…but there was a 19% decline in business. Sorensen's owner John Brissenden cited the media hysteria about the drought for the decline. Special events and programs are hosted at Sorensens all year long and 60 pairs of snowshoes were out on the trails often last winter.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country on the west side of Lake Tahoe had to close four times last winter. They had skiable conditions on 81 days and were often limited to only 40 kilometers of trails. Their normal year approaches 120 skiable days and area manager Sally Jones commented that the "high temperatures in the afternoon caused melting, but we shoveled snow to keep the trails covered. Some of the skiers grabbed shovels and helped! The bonus at Tahoe Donner was a big snow dump on April 1, which saw skiers come out in droves to enjoy the skiing and now the area is anticipating a busy year coming up. Nearby Royal Gorge Ski Resort had to close for one period but consistently kept snow on the trails at higher elevations..
The drought was more extreme in southern California. Bev Brown, owner of Rim Nordic in Running Springs, commented "Being so far south we received small amounts of snow early in October and a few inches in November and December. Then January was totally dry for us and it remained that way until late February when 7 inches of very wet snow finally fell. We got 10 inches on March 1st, but it was so wet that we were not able to groom."
By April, the California Cooperative Snow Survey reported only one third of the average statewide snow-water equivalent and late season storms did not alleviate the severe drought that continues to impact farmers, town and city water systems, and others.
The Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Nino Watch for the coming fall and winter, which usually translates to significant snow in California. To the uninitiated this can mean that despite the facts that last winter's snow was the least amount since 1977, multiple snow storms of five to eight feet can occur and that would turn things around this winter!
Peterson commented, "This is the 40th year I've been in the business and the weather statistics show that there have been 7 great winters, 7 very challenging winters, and 16 medium winters, which I define as getting 300-350 inches of snow." The Nordic ski area business is resilient but the most significant aspect of the winter involves about 40 critical days (holidays and weekends) when good conditions make a big difference for the business. "Last winter which was tough was saved because we summer groomed many of our trails, widening and smoothing them and laying down wood chips. We are certainly optimistic for a more prolific winter this year as the last three have been way below our normal of 350 inches."
When it comes to cross country (XC) skiing, the theory of what goes up must come down may be going out of style. Nowadays many people really enjoy the fun of just going downhill on XC skis, but they'd prefer avoiding the need to laboriously trudge uphill to earn that fun. Yeah, the skis have waxless bases that allow you to ski uphill without totally killing yourself, but it's so much easier with the onset of "lift or shuttle-served" XC skiing.
Simply put, lift or shuttle-served XC skiing allows the fun of the downhill with the use of a ski area lift or a shuttle ride so there's no need to "pay the price" of going miles uphill on skis. Of course, there are those who believe that one must earn such fun, but "no pain, no gain" may be a view that's, well a bit fuddyduddy.
At Bretton Woods in New Hampshire's White Mountains there is a $31 High Country lift ticket that gets an XC skier up near the summit to the Mountain Road by way of a chair lift, for a 7 kilometer (km) ski back down. The trail is easy enough and skiers can ski in the groomed tracks or on the flat skate lane, where they can make turns or snowplow.
The Bretton Woods lift ticket provides one ride on the high speed detachable quad (which slows down upon egress) and unlimited use of a T-bar, which is a few kilometers down the trail. The T-bar provides access to upper elevations of Mount Stickney and the Stickney Cabin, which has snacks, beverages and a place to hang out with indoor seating or outside by a stone fireplace. Skiing back to the Mountain Road offers some choices including a groomed trail or skiing through the glades (trees) with options for different levels of difficulty. The Mountain Road is still one of the most trails to be had on XC skis in New England!
In the northwest at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort there is a lift-served XC ski trail called the Summit Trail that is accessed near the top of Chewelah Peak. It descends and winds around the mountain for 12 km. On a clear day one can see all the way to Montana from the trail and many animal tracks or an occasional moose might be seen. It is a 2,000 foot decline in elevation but not all downhill though.
Other XC ski trails that are accessed by chair lifts can be found at Giants Ridge in MN with a free lift ride when you purchase a trail pass to access the 6 km Bronze Trail, the 6 km Summit Trail, or the 14 km Gold Trail. Boyne Mountain in MI has the Cold Springs Downhill trail. Royal Gorge in the Tahoe, CA area has two surface ski lifts for practicing downhill turns and also having accelerated fun.
At Garnet Hill Lodge, in North River, NY there's a shuttle ride from the bottom of a long downhill back to the lodge that has been offered since the early eighties. It originated when the lodge owner picked up skiers in his car and was then upgraded to a van and now it's a mini-bus. The shuttle is a free service for the skiers at Garnet Hill Lodge. Skeirs must sign up for the shuttle and there are many routes that skiers can take using intermediate rated trails to reach the two pick-up locations that have a 500 foot and 900 foot vertical drop, respectively. Shuttles are offered daily and 3-5 times a day on weekends and holidays. During the week and on slow times, the shuttle is offered on demand.
The Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH is adjacent to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and offers an uphill ride to achieve "treeline status" in the SnowCoach, which is a tracked van. The comfortable heated tour takes folks to the 4,000 foot elevation up Mount Washington where the views are breathtaking. Intermediate and advanced skiers can handle skiing down this road as a thrilling four mile decent back to the base lodge. There are various price options for the SnowCoach.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont has a free shuttle on the weekends that delivers skiers to the Highland Lodge for a 20 km return trek. There's a net drop of about 300 meters on the groomed trail, which traverses hill top pastures, farmsteads, and quaint Vermont villages. A shorter 5 km shuttled ride brings skiers back to the lodge from Craftsbury Village at the general store and deli.
One might wonder that if the downhill ski run is the objective, why not simply go alpine skiing? The trails above are cross country ski experiences. They all require kick and glide techniques across some flat terrain and they do not have the consistent and necessary steepness for alpine skiing. As lift and shuttle services become more popular, they'll be available at more ski areas but until that happens, you'll have to seek out areas that offer this service if you want this level of fun on XC skis.
If a hiker acts negligently and requires a search and rescue, who foots the bill of that search and rescue? Currently there are eight states with search and rescue billing laws on the books…that is if you are recreating in the outdoors and are responsible for needing to be rescued, the state can charge you for the cost of that search and rescue (S & R) mission.
While these laws are usually not enforced on hundreds of annual S & R missions, each mission averages about $2,000 each. The cost of a helicopter search alone could be as much as $6,500 per hour!
A small portion of these missions involve people who are deemed responsible for their predicament. Their negligence might mean that they avoided posted warnings or were unprepared or had inadequate gear for their outings. These S & R missions help people who are hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, backpacking, off road vehicle riding, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. The National Park Service and Coast Guard do not charge for search and rescue missions…the tax payers cover the costs incurred by those Federal agencies.
The NH Fish & Game Department spends a range of $350-1,000 per rescue for people who are having problems or are injured while recreating in the outdoors. Since the department has kept records there have been 957 search and rescue missions at an estimated cost of $1.8 million.
The problem is that there is little budget for these missions. In NH, funding for S & R comes from boating registrations, OHRV (off road vehicles) registration fees, and sportsmen (hunting and fishing) licenses. The majority of missions in NH seem to involve hikers, so the Hike Safe Card has been developed (state law RSA 206:26 bb) as an additional way to raise funding. The card would exempt a person from liability to the Department for the reasonable cost of a search and rescue response that was due to a person's negligence.
The Hike Safe Card is similar to Colorado's Search & Rescue Card, which was established in 1987 as a source of funding for S & R efforts. The state created a fund and an advisory council and set a fee for the Colorado card at $3 per year or $12 for 5 years. This program has been deemed a successful way of underwriting the S & R efforts in Colorado.
The NH Hike Safe Card is voluntary and available on line to go into effect on January 1, 2015. The cost of the card is $25 per year for an individual and $35 for a family. Outdoorsmen with valid hunting or fishing licenses are already covered for S & R missions that are due to negligence.
NH's Fish & Game Department said that the projected revenue from the Hike Safe Card is undetermined, but $2,000 has been earmarked for publicity. The card will also be available where hunting and fishing licenses can be acquired. It should be noted that people in the outdoors who require help but are not deemed responsible for their situation are not asked or required to pay for search and rescue efforts. The Fish & Game Department in NH has an annual budget of $200,000 for S & R missions. The department staff and politicians will be watching sales of the card and costs of search and rescue missions particularly closely in the coming year.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO has officially opened the new 50,000 square-foot High Lonesome Lodge and adjoining facilities to accommodate and host up to 350 guests on a hillside overlooking the Ranch. The lodge has 31 rooms and 4 suites offering a variety of amenities such as adjoining rooms, spacious bathrooms with low-flow fixtures, vaulted wood ceilings with beetle kill finishes, stone fireplaces in select rooms and suites, and exterior porches with east-facing views of the Continental Divide. A 40-seat Wine Grotto is situated into the lower hillside featuring an arched ceiling and wine barrels in the entryway including showroom-style planning and pre-event space.
The High Lonesome Barn has 4,200 sq. ft. and is a reclaimed Civil War-era barn for groups, meetings, special events, weddings, and bridal parties that can accommodate up to 350 people. A main feature is a wall of windows offering unparalleled views of the Continental Divide and Ranch Creek Valley. A Hay Loft in the Barn provides multi-function capabilities for receptions, reading lounge, and smaller meetings. There’s also the South Terrace for outdoor receptions and a landscaped “amphitheater” below for outdoor weddings.
The High Lonesome Pavilion is a 3,000 sq. ft. outdoor events Pavilion for comfortable al fresco dining from Spring until Fall on the hillside just north of the High Lonesome Lodge that is also outfitted with fire pit for tubing hill participants, Nordic skiers, and snowshoers.
The High Lonesome Lodge’s exterior matches the dark brown color of the existing main lodge at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa with reclaimed rock covering the foundation and chimneys. Large windows are designed to allow for as much natural light as well as views for guests, and locally made iron railings and native landscaping keep a low carbon footprint and pay tribute to the Ranch’s history, often referred to as "parkitecture." The decor is of a similar style to the rest of the Ranch’s interiors - luxurious yet unpretentious and with whimsical touches that include western and folk art, European antiques, and leather sofas. The suites and some of the guest rooms also have fireplaces. All of the guest rooms and suites have scenic views of the property that overlook the meadow and the signature 300 foot “Devil’s Thumb,” a rock outcropping that sits on the Continental Divide for which the Ranch was named.
The Ranch continues its established recycling programs and used the beetle kill wood and other reclaimed products in all the facilities’ construction. The Ranch also features geo-thermal radiant heating, low voltage lighting, recycled pavement, sand water filtration system and is committed to sourcing sustainably farmed food, including raising its own 100 percent purebred Wagyu beef, and other products and services locally as much as possible.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is already one of the leading premium resorts for cross country skiers in the world and the expansion will extend the opportunities for more people to enjoy the facilities and the surrounding land.
In a story in the Bangor Daily News it was reported that the Maine Winter Sports Center (MWSC) lost its major source of funding earlier this year and has recently raised funding for its $1.1 million operating budget for next season.
The Libra Foundation had been the most significant source of funds for the Center for 15 years. The funds were used to establish four Nordic ski centers in Maine and spearhead outdoor programs in more than 140 Maine communities through its healthy hometowns initiative.
According to Andrew Shepard, MWSC president, $1,115,000 has been raised, including half a million dollars pledged by Presque Isle native philanthropist Mary Smith Barton. Several Maine-based corporations, including L.L.Bean, Emera Maine, Dead River, and the United Insurance Group have committed $300,000 in sponsorships for two to three years. The fundraising effort has included more than 330 donors from 65 towns across Maine, 17 other states, and Quebec.
Maine Winter Sports Center has been responsible for bringing international and national Nordic ski competitions to Maine including four World Cup Biathlon events. There are currently 13 full-time or part-time staff and coaches affiliated with both the Nordic centers and Healthy Hometowns programs. MWSC currently operates the 10th Mountain Center in Fort Kent and the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle.
Shepard estimates that MWSC-sponsored events such as the recent junior biathlon world cup in Presque Isle have resulted in an economic impact close to $100 million over the last 10 years. "The Healthy Hometowns is our community development program that is intended to create greater access to, and awareness of how to lead a healthier lifestyle for people in Maine. We don't track how many participants take part in Healthy Hometowns programs, but it could be as high as 10,000 a year based on the amount of equipment used, including skis, boots and mountain bikes.
Lauren Jacobs, who runs Healthy Hometowns in central Maine for MWSC said, "The equipment is hugely important. The biggest hurdle to getting kids outside was access to equipment and facilities so we work to address both those needs."Mountain bike and Nordic ski programs are the focus of Dedham’s Healthy Hometowns programs and Tim Pearson, a PE teacher in Dedham rented a trailer load of 20 MWSC mountain bikes, helmets, spare tires, and tools. They then used Healthy Hometowns-developed curriculum to design programs for the students using those bikes. When asked if he could run the programs without Healthy Hometowns Pearson replied, “Probably, but not as effectively. They have expertise I don’t have.”
Mountain bike and Nordic ski programs are the focus of Dedham's Healthy Hometowns programs and Tim Pearson, a PE teacher in Dedham rented a trailer load of 20 MWSC mountain bikes, helmets, spare tires, and tools. They then used Healthy Hometowns-developed curriculum to design programs for the students using those bikes. When asked if he could run the programs without Healthy Hometowns Pearson replied, "Probably, but not as effectively. They have expertise I don't have."
MWSC's Andrew Shepard said. "Now that the funding is secured for the upcoming season, the focus will shift to the long term sustainability of the MWSC including sponsorships, foundation support, and the creation of an endowment. Anyone interested in donating to the fundraising effort may do so by contacting Shepard at 232-3304 or online at www.mainewsc.org.
You might save money by giving your kids outdated and hand-me-down cross country ski equipment, a heavy nylon parka, and a fur-lined cap with earflaps, but this gear will increase your kids' chance of having a rotten time while cross country (XC) skiing.
Improper equipment may be too heavy, cause blisters, and expose kids to frostbite. Too much or too heavy ski clothing (often used by alpine skiers when they go XC skiing) will lead to a common but misguided perspective: that is, XC skiing is tiring and "too much work." Dress correctly and get equipped properly and XC skiing can be a blast.
Poorly equipped kids won't be able to glide, turn, or stop as quickly as their appropriately outfitted friends. They may have trouble getting the skis to grip while going up hills. How much fun is that?
Use the tips in this article to get properly fitted equipment and clothing for children, whether it's brand-new or previously used. As they grow out of gear and clothing, pass them on to another child but make sure that it is appropriately sized for the one receiving the hand-me-down. Some shops have buy-back, trade-in, or long-term rental plans for children's gear, so check with ski shops in your area.
The Right Gear
Waxless skis are great for kids and even toddlers can enjoy a stroll on wide plastic XC skis that they can strap on to their regular snow boots. Make sure the boots fit well and feel as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. Sizing XC skis has changed so you can have short skis that are both very maneuverable and provide long glides. Use the "paper test" to see if a particular pair of skis supports your weight effectively for both gripping on the uphills and gliding on the flat terrain or downhills. Here's how to do it: On a hard floor surface, you should be able to slide a piece of paper under the skis when you stand evenly weighted on both of the ski centers. When all of your weight is applied to one ski at a time, the paper should be unable to slide.
Light layers of clothing should help you feel comfortable and you can always remove a layer if you get too hot while going uphills. A lightweight synthetic base layer of long underwear helps to keep you dry and transport any perspiration away. A middle layer that provides insulation such as a shirt or sweater with a jacket shell on the outer layer works great. Don't forget a headband or light hat and a pair of appropriate gloves (not alpine ski gloves) that are made for movement.
Make sure XC skiing is fun for the child; this means avoiding strenuous hills and scary out-of-control downhill runs. The key is for your child to have a positive experience on the first few XC ski outings. It may be easier (and a good decision) to have your child begin with a qualified instructor in a class with other kids. After the lesson, join him or her for an easy family XC ski to a nearby destination.
XC ski areas often have special terrain or incentives for kids. Trail Tracker is a scavenger hunt at Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat.
Methow Valley, WA has storybook trails that feature 1 km loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe.
Smuggler's Notch in VT has an XC ski lesson for kids, which happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis.
Bring some chocolate treats, talk about animal tracks, and encourage your child. Make it about more than skiing, and it can give you many years of quality family time and memories cross country skiing with your children.
Ski Cubs is an educational program of the Catamount Trail Association (CTA) focused on introducing youth to cross-country skiing as a means to promote healthy lifestyles for Vermont families and communities. Ski Cubs collaborates with local organizations and schools to serve participants with limited resources and limited access to winter sports opportunities. This program offers youth an opportunity to enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle during the winter. The intention is that Ski Cubs participants will develop a lifelong affinity for outdoor recreation and natural areas while continuing to ski with friends, family, and community members.
In its 2011 pilot season, Ski Cubs worked with five Burlington area youth organizations, teaching a total of 60 young people (ages 8 to 14) to ski. 75% of participants had never skied before and 100% expressed a desire to continue skiing in the future! In 2012, the CTA expanded Ski Cubs with the purchase of GPS units and snowshoes to develop an environmental education curriculum. In 2014, the program structure was altered to a weekend-model at Bolton Valley Nordic Center. A kids program may also be initiated this winter in southern Vermont in conjunction with Ski Cubs.
Ski Cubs runs on six Saturdays in January and February 9 AM-12 PM at Bolton Valley Nordic Center and is 100% free of charge, including equipment, instruction, ski pass and snacks. Bus transportation is offered to and from Burlington, and other groups are welcomed from surrounding areas, too. All instruction is done by volunteers. Each day includes fun games on skis, skill building, environmental education and skiing along the Bolton Valley Nordic trails. Participating organizations must commit to all 6 weeks and provide an adult chaperone.
The CTA also developed a school-based model to increase the number of kids that were reached and the Ski Cubs partners with schools to create customized programs, where typically, schools transport students to a local Nordic ski area. Ski Cubs staff and volunteers instruct the school program. Each day includes fun games on skis, skill building, environmental education and skiing along Nordic trails. In 2014 Ski Cubs worked with Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro, Vermont, creating a successful model for potential future school collaborations. The school aspect of the program is a template that could be conducted respectively by every Nordic ski area.
Ski Cubs is seeking volunteers for the program, and interested parties can contact email@example.com or call 802-864-5794. . Volunteers who are experienced with cross country skiing, working with children ages 8 to 18, environmental education are needed and they are asked to commit to a minimum of two weeks.
The SIA Snow Show is set for Denver, CO at the Colorado Convention Center on Jan 29 – Feb 1. Just announced, a Nordic Center exhibit will be created at the Show to give Nordic buyers and those new to the category an exclusive preview of apparel, equipment, accessories and technologies specific for the cross country and snowshoe experience while learning how to market, merchandise and sell the sports.
Chris McCullough of Madshus said, "Any opportunity for the Nordic community to come together with a shared focus for growing the sport and raising awareness for the full breadth of Nordic ski participation is a huge plus for us all. We're all really supportive of the return of this Nordic Center exhibit.
Participating product suppliers in the Nordic Center include Alpina Sports Corp., Atomic USA, Inc., Crescent Moon Snowshoes, Endurance Enterprises, Fisher Skis US, Madshus, One Way Sport USA, Rossignol, Salomon USA, Swix Sport USA, Inc. and TOKO.
After the SIA Snow Show, some of the XC ski gear can be tried on the snow at the Nordic Demo at Copper Mountain on February 2-3.
As the cross country (XC) ski season winds down most XC ski areas close because of lack of skiers rather than lack of snow on the trails. The sun comes out, the temperature rises, and the XC skiers quit. Why?
Are we infected with winter fatigue? Is the lure of spring time recreation too strong to ignore? Was there too much XC skiing during the winter?
XCSkiResorts.com spoke with some ski area operators around the nation to get their take on spring skiing. Lapland Lake in Northville, NY commented that their trails are compacted on a daily basis so the snow does not disappear like in the city or open area in suburbia. Lapland's Ann Hirvonen said, "It's been a gorgeous sun-splashed week. People should get out and enjoy this weather and these great spring conditions!"
Hirvonen admits that the reality is that it costs more for grooming and staffing than the amount of income earned from too few skiing patrons. "Fewer and fewer skiers come as the days grow sunny and warm. The public has grown tired of snow after a long cold winter and is yearning for spring with a desire to bike, jog, roller blade, or golf."
In Minnesota at Maplelag Resort, proprietor Jay Richards concurs "that people want to get on the snow early but get tired of winter and ready for warm spring days." During the spring, they average about a dozen skiers a week and do not offer special incentives to encourage spring skiing. He feels that "skiers in the Midwest are conditioned to colder and drier snow compared to skiers in other regions who are more accustomed to a wider variety of snow conditions."
Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH closed the trails in late March but offered some grooming afterward. They were happy the year was up 14.6% and attributed the increase to marketing and consistent conditions. A temperature inversion in the Jackson area helped to avoid the extreme cold weather. They got the word out "using all marketing channels with different media, TV, print, social media, and years of regional promoting about XC skiing." Jackson also offered an end-of-the-year incentive on next year's season pass.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT also offered passes for next season at a great rate. The ranch's director of marketing, PJ Wirchansky said "guests ask why the trails are being closed while there is so much snow on the ground and we are seeing good weekend numbers, but it is much slower than any other part of the season. We'll continue to groom the trails regularly but we have easements on the private property that end on or before April 15."
The Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, MT are entirely on Federal land and are run by a non-profit organization that grooms and maintains the trails. Program Director, Moira Dow said, "The Forest Service sets the season dates and fees. Users on the trails outside of those dates do not have to pay a fee. The organization's trail grooming is restricted by its budget, so it does not groom beyond March 31st. Luckily there are some local volunteers who continue to groom the trails so they are skiable with late snow into the spring. Yellowstone National Park also closes in mid-March and once the park roads are plowed they are limited to only foot or bicycle traffic (also administrative vehicles) until the park opens to vehicle traffic later in the spring. This makes for some of the best weeks in the park." She also says that "crust cruising in Yellowstone or on Hebgen Lake or cycling in the park in the morning and then in the afternoon skiing on the Rendezvous Ski Trails or drinking some beers." Sounds like a plan.
At most alpine ski areas there are usually weekend spring parties and incentives with lower prices as the trail counts begin to dwindle. BBQ lunches and live music are popular as are pond skimming and costume days on the slopes. At XC ski areas, there are some end-of-the-year parties for season pass holders at the end of the season. It makes sense that other events and incentives can be conceived and scheduled to encourage more visitation at the end of the year. Photo: Groomed trail with blue skies at Byrncliff Resort.
The winter and snow cover are leaving us, so what do we do with ski equipment?
1) Cleaning: Use wax remover and Fiber wipe to clean the kick zone and also the glide zone.
2) Use the finest Steel or Copper brush to clean excess dirt from base.
3) Apply layer of Start Base (or Service or soft non-fluoro glider like SG2) to glide zones.
4) While wax is still soft use scraper with low pressure to "hot wipe" wax and further dirt away.
5) Follow with Fiber wipe and then finest steel brush again to remove dirt while refreshing base further. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as necessary until no more dirt is seen coming from base.
6) If you suspect your skis have any base damage (i.e. base sealing) consider having the skis stoneground to reveal a fresh base in the spring before summer storage. A fresh base is the most import feature in a skis ability to hold wax and to glide. Ski shops in most every ski town offer great stone grinding services.
7) Once you have a clean and refreshed base it is time to saturate the base with a summer storage wax. In the glide zones melt in a thick layer of Start Base (or Service or soft non-fluoro glider like SG2) and let it cool. If all the wax has been absorbed into the base at any point add another layer on to. Let cool leave it on the ski all summer.
8) Skis should be storage in cool, dry place, out of sunlight and not near heating elements nor not near the roof where temperature can rise over 50C degrees. Skis should be stored loosely strapped with no pressure on camber so that there is no risk that heat and pressure can alter any of the skis camber characteristics.
9) Better to do something than nothing. So at the very, very least crayon your softest glide onto your glide zones right now.
Article contributor Andy Gerlach in Sun Valley, ID knows his stuff –he's with SkiPost and Start Wax at http://www.skipost.com/
Every pregnancy guide book and website will tell you that it's very important to exercise during your pregnancy. Exercise will help to keep your body loose and supple, leaving you much more well equipped to deal with the strains and stresses of late pregnancy and, ultimately, labor. What those same books and websites are hazy about though, are exactly which sports and exercise you should be undertaking: if you have always been into cross country (XC) skiing, can you continue to ski during pregnancy?
XC Skiing During Pregnancy
The simple answer is that yes, provided you have the approval of your doctor, you are able to enjoy XC skiing during early pregnancy. If you are not a regular and expert XC skier then your pregnancy is definitely not a good time to take up the sport; it is important that you are able to balance and feel there is a minimal risk of falling during your ski, as it is any fall or bump that has the potential to be damaging to your baby.
Perhaps you can check out some skiing videos and read some snow reports before you hit the slopes, to consider how you feel about enjoying your favorite winter sport while you're pregnant? Some women find even seeing skiing makes them feel so concerned that they are unable to enjoy themselves like they usually do.
Even if you are an experienced and regular XC skier, there are some precautions you should take if you decide to hit the snow whilst pregnant. Try not to overexert yourself too much: take things slower and less enthusiastically than you might have previously. Pay attention to your body and how you're feeling; don't push through any twinges or shortness of breath. Sit down and take a short rest instead!
Many women will choose to stop skiing at around the fifth month of their pregnancy because this is when most women find they really notice their baby bumps and they begin to feel cumbersome. When your bump is large it will also affect your center of gravity, which could in turn increase your risk of experiencing a fall. You shouldn't be concerned about the higher altitude of your ski destination affecting your baby however; this is a widely reported myth! Plenty of babies are born at higher altitudes, and the change in oxygen levels will have no effect on your unborn child.
Finally, because every pregnancy and every woman is different, ensure you discuss your plans with your doctor before you continue with your current exercise regime. That way, he or she will be able to tell you of any risks posed to your own particular circumstances. But if you are a healthy woman having a normal healthy pregnancy then there should be no reason not to enjoy a leisurely ski.
Postpartum XC Skiing
Postpartum exercise is beneficial for new moms, both mentally and physically. Depending on the type of child birth you experience, most new moms are given the all clear to begin exercising again at around a month to six weeks after their baby is born.
Once you are given the okay to exercise, there's no reason why you can't return to XC skiing! Just take it slowly and make sure you don't overexert yourself. It is unlikely that you will be able to go straight back into your pre-baby routine; instead set yourself small challenges to work your way of to your pre pregnancy fitness levels. Don't extend your joints to the point where it causes pain or stretch too excessively. Post-partum women will find their joints and ligaments are much softer for the first couple of months following the birth of their child, so it is important to be aware of this and avoid hurting yourself.
By following these few simple tips, there is no reason not to enjoy XC skiing during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. Why not get your skis on and find out for yourself?
Here are the XC skiing highlights at the Sochi Olympics. I was recently asked how I was able to watch so many of the XC ski events and part of it has to do with available time. The Sochi Olympics provided plenty of XC ski memories - most of them were aired on NBCSN (Sports Network). I also have the Comcast Xfinity cable TV service, which had live coverage of events.
I'd imagine that more of the XC ski events would be shown on prime time if Americans won medals in the events. But alas, even though there were high hopes that Americans would win some medals with world champion sprinter Kikkan Randall, the Americans did not reach the podium in any XC ski events. Both American and Canadian XC ski teams framed some of their results as "best ever finishes."
The XC ski events at Sochi featured heartwarming gestures, come-from-behind victories, broken skis and poles, short sleeved competitors, unfulfilled expectations, fog, sun with warm temperatures, mushy snow, and some soap operas, too.
Prior to the start of the games, the story of biathlete twin sisters Tracy and Lanny Barnes made the airwaves. Lanny had a more productive season but she got sick during Olympic team qualifications and did not make the team roster. Tracy did make the team and then relinquished her position so her sister could make the team instead and go to Sochi.
There was a reported problem with stray dogs in Sochi and they showed up at the XC skiing venue where they visited and harassed skiers. The dogs also attended training sessions at the biathlon center, where some dogs reportedly marked territory next to the main bleachers.
Todd Lodwick of the US Nordic Combined team was named the US flag bearer for the opening ceremony. He was selected by a vote of captains in each of the sports. This was Lodwick's 6th Olympics and he won a silver medal in the team competition in the Vancouver Olympics. His teammate Bill Demong was selected as US flag bearer in the closing ceremony in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Demong was also a gold medalist in Nordic Combined in the 2010 Olympics, and during his time there he proposed to his girlfriend in front of the team.
The IOC reprimanded the Norwegian Women's XC Ski Team for wearing black armbands during a race. The team decided to show sympathy for teammate Astrid Jacobsen, who suffered the loss of her brother the day before the race. Gerland Heiberg, Norwegian IOC member commented that wearing the armbands (and also a sponsor of Marit Bjorgen that displayed an ad on a commercial website) was breaking the IOC rules and might be deemed "arrogant." A Norwegian professor suggested that Heiberg and the IOC were "out of touch."
Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the 10 km sprint for his 7th career gold. He's 40 years old and became the oldest Winter Olympic gold medalist in an individual sport. He also won his 13th career Winter Olympic medal at the inaugural mixed biathlon race at Sochi, which had teams composed of two women ski 6 km and two men ski 7.5 km.
The XC ski sprint races with their elimination format showed the exciting experience that this type of race often reveals with photo finishes, broken equipment, surprises, and devastating crashes on the course. The soft snow conditions were difficult for ski waxing and skier control, but the course was the same for all competitors.
In very soft snow conditions for the women's sprint race, Kikkan Randall was eliminated from the quarterfinals in her sprint race and she also missed the "Lucky Loser" category by 7/100 of a second. Kikkan was leading 3/4 of her race up against the Norwegian Olympic champ Marit Bjoergen and the current World Cup leader German sprinter Denise Hermann. Kikkan just ran out of gas and finished fourth.
Sophie Caldwell surprisingly took 2nd in her semifinal with an incredible 20 yards to finish line to attain a chance in the final. She fell after getting tangled with Astrid Jacobsen. Her sixth place finish in the final was the best finish for an American XC skier in Olympic history.
Anton Gafarov of Russia broke a ski in the mens XC ski sprint semifinal race and he was struggling and falling while attempting to go up hill and finish the race. Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth, who is also a former Olympian for the US came to the rescue by not only offering a spare ski to Gafarov, but bending over and helping the skier snap into the binding. The Russian racer had no chance to qualify for the finals, but Wadsworth's aid allowed him to finish the race with dignity in front of the home Russian fans.
In one of the most exciting events, Charlotte Kalla of Sweden won the 4x5 km women's relay race when she overcame a 25 second deficit to silver and bronze medalist countries Finland and Germany with only 300 meters remaining in the race.
Norway was favored to win the relay race but finished in fifth and the headlines tell all regarding the rivalry between Sweden and Norway. The Swedish media reported "Kalla skied like a goddess," while the Norwegian media called the race "The biggest debacle in Norwegian sport ever."
The Americans, who were expected to compete for a medal finished 9th about two and half minutes behind. Kikkan Randall skied the first leg for the US team and she struggled when the pace accelerated in her second lap. Kikkan commented, "My body just fell apart out there. We thought that everything seemed to be coming together when we got to Sochi but I'm at a little bit of a loss what's going on right now." American Jessie Diggins turned the wrong way on one of the turns in the stadium in the race's final leg.
Norwegian Technician Claims Sabotage
Swix, the main product suppliers for Norway and a number of other XC ski teams denied Nystad's claim. The company reported that Nystad was offered the same supplies as the rest of the competition but he refused to use them.
Norway's men and women's XC ski relay teams failed to medal and their team's chief technician Knut Nystad claimed that the Norwegians were sabotaged by an unnamed supplier, who was withholding technologically superior ski products from the Norwegian team. "We have confirmation that others have things that we have not received. They had a chance to create alternative winners, which in the long term is positive for the sport. But it's damn annoying."
Polish XC skier Justyna Kowalczyk won the gold medal in the 10 km classic XC ski race while overcoming a broken foot. What is not news is that Scandinavians (Norway, Sweden, Finland) took 7 of the top 10 finishes at the race. The highest finish by an American in the 10 km classic was 18th followed by 32, 34, 35, while the Canadians placed 42, 44, 55, and 57.
Lowell Bailey, a 32 year old American biathlete had the best Olympic result ever in the mens 20 km biathlon race finishing 8th. He only missed one shot and had he made that shot, he would have won a bronze medal. The UVM graduate finished 35th in the biathlon sprint only a few days ago and he was so inconsolable that he was unable to speak for 20 minutes after the race. "It's so damn hard. Most of it was mental, I was so down. It's a sport where one day you can be at the bottom and then in a matter of 72 hours, be at the top." In the 20 km race, he saw he mom in the stands, who had traveled from Lake Placid, NY to watch her son. "It made me appreciate that I was here. By the final uphill he was aware that he had accomplished something very special…a TOP 10.
Biathlon Relay and the Ukraine
The women's biathlon relay race can be one of the most exciting events at the Olympics with the format that has the shooters replacing ammunition to reshoot the target after missing shots. The Ukraine women's biathlon team won their country's first gold in Sochi and with the recent political unrest in the Ukraine, comments from the Ukrainian Olympians might have been expected.
Ukrainian competitor Vita Semerenko had previously won bronze in the women's 7.5 km sprint and she spoke about how important the medal was after that race stressing that further podium appearances were important for her country. Semerenko said, "For Ukraine, winning this medal is very important and it is hopefully not my last one and other girls will follow, too."
Also in the biathlon relay race, the US women biathletes had the best finish of all American biathletes in Sochi with a 7th place and they surpassed the Canadians in the last leg (although that did not soften the blow of the American women's hockey team loss). Both of the North American biathlete teams finished ahead of the Germans, who usually dominate the biathlon and ended in 11th place in the race.
The women's team sprint classic race was won by Norway, Finland, and Sweden and it just did not happen for the American team of Kikkan Randall and Sophie Caldwell.
Darya Domracheva of Belarus won her 3rd gold medal in the women's 12.5 km mass start biathlon. She also won the pursuit and individual biathlon races. She said, "I just tried to enjoy myself and I did my race with a laugh." She only missed one of sixteen shooting targets in the race.
Czech Republic silver medalist Gabriela Soukalova won the silver medal in the 12.5 km mass start biathlon race 30 years after her mother won silver in the women's relay for Czechoslovakia. American Susan Dunklee finished the race in 12th place after missing 3 of 16 shots but it was the best American women biathlon finish in history.
Mens 4 x 10 km relay XC ski race saw Sweden win when they joined the women of Sweden to rein supreme. This was the second consecutive Olympic gold medal for the Swedish men, who also won gold in the Vancouver Olympics. Russian President Vladimir Putin was on hand at the race to see the Russian relay team take the silver medal.
The mens biathlon relay race was won by Russia when Anton Shipulin skied first across the finish line amidst a well-deserved celebration of the mostly Russian crowd. It was exciting going into the final shoot with the Norwegian Svendsen in the lead. This year, he had a 96% marksmanship when shooting while standing up, but amazingly he missed 4 of the 5 shots, allowing the Russian and German, who shot perfectly to ski away into the lead ending with gold and silver medals, respectively.
The Norwegian women solidified the come back by the Norwegian XC ski team when they swept the medals in the 30 km race. Somehow, the Norwegians got past the earlier claim that they were sabotaged by the product supplier and they won plenty of medals in XC skiing after making the claim. Marit Bjoergen won the 10th Olympic medal of her career (6 of which are gold) tying the most ever by a female winter athlete.
The Russians swept the mens 50 km ski marathon and it was the first time since 1932 that the 50 km race was swept by one country. It also sealed the Russians' lead for the most total medals in the Sochi Olympics.
NBC reportedly earned a profit from advertising, which was no small feat since it cost more than $700 million to produce the broadcast coverage of these Olympics. There were a reported 22 million viewers of the Sochi games and NBC did a great job covering the events using multiple TV channels and more live coverage. The broadcast of the games just keeps getting better for the viewers. Mary Carillo was featured in a filmed travelogue around Russia showing a beautiful country of hardworking people.
With regard to the sponsors and advertisers, Proctor & Gamble stood out with the best advertising campaign on TV recognizing "moms' support." P & G also sponsored a refuge facility for athletes and their families on site. A favorite ad was the Samsung commercial depicting kids emulating Olympic athletes off the roof, down the stairs, and in the bath tub.
I look forward to the next winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea starting on February 9, 2018.
Nordic sit-skiing gives a taste of freedom to a person with mobility limitations to access snow covered trails, fields, and cross country (XC) ski areas that cover the north country. People such as wounded warriors or accident victims, who have mobility impairments can experience the benefits of XC skiing…that is, getting outdoors in the natural environment, feel the confidence associated with physical and mental fitness and wellness, and enjoy the freedom to travel over snow as far as they can go.
Sit-skis are the adaptive equipment for folks in a wheel chair (spinal cord injuries) and for those with leg injuries or amputations. There are different kinds of equipment designs to support a wide variety of users such as people with and without legs, people of different sizes, and so on. Sit-skiers use short poles in the range of 100-130cm long. Those with one lower leg amputation are encouraged to participate in a standing position, so they might utilize the same equipment as able-bodied participants.
Sit-ski equipment consists of an ultra-light weight plastic or carbon fiber bucket supported by an aluminum alloy frame that clips into a pair of XC skis. The ski poles are shortened to accommodate the seat height and the skier double poles for a cross country ski experience.
So how much work is XC skiing for a mobility impaired person? The skis glide efficiently and the biggest challenge is steep hills. Most sit-skiers start on flat terrain and become accustomed to double poling to propel the equipment forward. Beginner trails at commercial XC ski areas provide optimal terrain for a sit-skier to practice and see if XC skiing is right for him or her. As in any endeavor, practice and repetition helps to develop the muscles and body parts that are needed. But the first time sit-skier should expect to have some arm soreness for a couple of days afterward.
It is a good idea to take a lesson and rent sit-ski equipment at the start to try it and see if XC skiing is something that feels right. There are dozens of different sit-ski designs with regard to attachment to the skis, but there are only a few manufacturers of the equipment. Some sit-ski models clip right on any XC ski with an SNS binding and others bolt permanently and require tools to change skis. You would be able to change skis depending upon snow conditions if you have the clip-on model sit-ski. The length of the ski selected will vary based on the skier's weight and it is good to start beginners on shorter skis for easier maneuverability. A sit-skier wants to minimize the ski base friction and narrower skis are generally faster than wider skis.
There are only a few XC ski areas that have sit-ski equipment to use including Vermont's Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton and Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Other areas with programs in the northeast include Pinelands Farm in New Gloucester, Maine and Weston Ski Track in Mass. (both of these areas have snowmaking). Most often an introduction to sit-skiing is through programs. Such organized programs across the country are in Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, and in Sun Valley, Idaho. For a list of program contacts check out http://findaclub.usparalympics.org/ and do an advanced search for winter sports and XC skiing.
A sit-ski beginner usually has his/her equipment prepared for him/her ahead of time by the instructor. A sit-skier applies downward pressure in order to move forward and wants to get everything lined up to make the movement efficient and take full advantage of their functioning muscles.
As you might imagine, hills are a challenge for sit-skiers and the key is to avoid steep uphill terrain. Backsliding on gentle terrain is less of an issue although on a steep incline there is always a point of no return. Since your sole source of energy is double-poling and you cannot side step or herring bone, you are at the mercy of physics and at some point you simply cannot climb. Beginning sit-skiers are taught a safety procedure for bailing out on a backwards descent.
Patrick Standen of the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association commented, "A person could chose whatever ski set up works best for them, their adapted equipment, and the terrain they use. I have some buddies who backcountry in the Sierra Nevada's, who sit-ski up mountains with skins, but they are seasoned skiers." In general, it is recommended that sit-skiers go out with a companion who can help push them up hills.
"Specifically, the double-poling motion and cadence changes as you approach and begin to climb hills by becoming shorter and more rapid until, if needed, you are "ice-picking" or pulling yourself up one carefully planted pole pull at a time. It can be arduous but it is a total upper body workout and a great cardio pump."
Nordic skiing offers peace in the wilderness and feeds personal wellness and hopefully more persons with mobility impairments will discover that they can use ski-skis to attain this experience of beauty and tranquility.
Photo o Patrick Standen on the sit ski
I just got back from a weekend in the Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire's White Mountains and the report is that the trail conditions were great. This had been a good start to the winter season and there had been a few snow storms that provided great trail cover in the region, but now an epic rainstorm and extended warm up were forecast.
Case in point, the Jackson Ski Touring Center received three feet of snow in December. During the winter break between Christmas and New Year's Day, the number of skiers reported at Jackson had increased by 15 percent over last year's numbers. Overall, skier visits were up and the conditions made for excellent skiing and snowshoeing. Jackson Ski Touring Center Executive Director Thom Perkins said, "Even with some recent rain, there is still plenty of snow on the ground here in Jackson." And I can personally confirm that snow.
The weekend started on Saturday with a visit to Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH. It rained most of the time that we were out on the trails; all right, some might call it torrential downpour. But the snow was very skiable, not too soft or slushy. There were some very wet areas on the trails (called ponding) that we could easily ski around and avoid. We were in the leeward side of the mighty Mt. Washington and we got soaked but we were comfortable in the well-designed forested trails and never felt any wind from the storm. One skier in my group was a first timer and he had no problem with the weather or the ski conditions. I had intended to take the SnowCoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to the 4,000 foot elevation and ski back down, but the weather prohibited that idea so it will have to happen on a future trip to Great Glen.
The next day my wife and I skied at Bear Notch Ski Touring Center on trails that were scenic and comfortable (little up hill on our outing). Perhaps it was the soft snow that allowed us to scoot up the tracks with little effort. We were passed by a skijoring couple, each being towed up the trail by a Siberian Huskey leashed to a harness.
Part of the trails we skied at both Great Glen and Bear Notch were along brooks. Upon my comment to my wife that I enjoyed skiing along while hearing the water flow nearby, I learned that there are some people that claim such running water makes them want to tinkle. You're never too old to learn things.
We stayed at a country inn called the Christmas Farm Inn just up the hill from downtown Jackson, New Hampshire, which is a quintessential New England town with the white steeple church. This town, is home of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation and it is a Mecca for cross country skiers. Jackson has also been cited as one of the more romantic destinations for travelers. Skiers can don their skis and hit the more than 150 kilometers of trails right out the door of their lodging almost anywhere in town. The Foundation operates under a Special-Use Permit with the White Mountain National Forest, and with the cooperation of 75 private landowners, and the Village of Jackson.
While at the Christmas Farm Inn, we dined on a fine dinner and breakfast and scheduled massages at the inn's Aveda Concept Spa. The inn is a classic country inn seemingly out of the movie White Christmas, and it is believed that it was originally built in 1778. We stayed in the Carriage House, which is the inn's newest facility that houses the spa and is nearby to the indoor pool and fitness center.
On Monday morning, we stayed in Jackson and skied in glorious sunshine on the Ellis River Trail, which is rolling terrain along the West Bank of the Ellis River. The Waffle Cabin is an easy destination for skiers to reach about 3 kilometers up the trail from the Jackson Ski Touring Center lodge. We took some photos and had a great return ski, again along the babbling river, which was full of water from the previous rainstorm. This trail is a special place for my family because it is where my wife fell in love with cross country skiing. Hopefully, I had something to do with it, but there was also a chipmunk that crossed her ski path on that day in 1986. We've also skied the Ellis River Trail with our kids and have savored our family memories on that trail.
All in all, it was a great three days on the trails in the Mt. Washington Valley and the moral of the story is that people should check the snow conditions reports before deciding that a rain storm or warm weather necessarily ruins cross country skiing trails. The weather may have been the reason that we saw so few other skiers on the trails. If they only knew the great trail conditions that they were missing!
Photo of two skiers behind Jackson Ski Touring Center lodge
Try before you buy - many XC ski areas conduct demo days to give skiers an opportunity to test drive the newest XC ski equipment. It's a day when product suppliers' branded tents and flags are flapping in the wind and company reps stand guard armed with knowledge of their wares.
You might participate in a demo because you have outdated gear (national statistics say that XC skis are 17 years old on average) and want to test new and different equipment to replace your old clunkers. Or you might just want to experience the advantages of the new gear. A pair of XC skis can be as high as $500 for premium models, so it makes great sense to try some different skis, ski categories, and brands to find something that best fits you.
Depending on how organized the demo is, you might need a credit card and/or identification for security but remember to also bring an open mind. The rep will ask you about your skiing ability and interests. If you're an intermediate skier who gets out on the trails four times a winter it is very different from a skier who hits the trails every weekend and can fly on skate skis. Give the rep an accurate description of your skiing prowess and interests so he or she can make a recommendation for you.
If you need a new set up and want to use a product demo to help make the decision about what to buy, do some homework before going to the demo. Talk with a knowledgeable ski shop employee who XC skis. Be wary of the alpine ski shop that limits its XC ski products to a dark or dusty back corner of the store. Find a reputable XC ski shop that sells multiple models among a few different brands of XC skis. Check out some company brand websites or other general XC ski-oriented websites.
When at the demo, get the right size skis for your weight and ski on them for about 15 minutes. Find some uphill and downhill trails to see how the skis perform. Do the skis hold going uphill or do you have to fight to prevent backsliding? Are some skis easier to turn than others? Does the glide seem to extend or do the skis slow down quickly? If you don't know what to look for while testing, ask the rep for some tips.
It is recommended to stay in the same category of skis when testing, so if you're trying a recreational waxless ski from one brand, test a similar ski and price point from a different brand before switching to a different kind of skis.
Of course, there are two different XC ski boot/bindings available and if you don't use the same system on the different skis that you're testing, you'll have to change boots to ski the other boot/binding system.
Rossignol rep Will Masson commented about the advantage of demoing with the NIS binding, "The NIS system allows you to move the binding on the ski to 7 different positions so you can fine tune your grip and glide position on the skis. The binding starts out at the balance point position and moves forward 1.5 cm and back 1.5 cm to customize your weight distribution on a particular ski. This can only be achieved when using the NIS system.
There is a graph that shows the benefits of moving the binding forward and back on the plate for skating and classic. A customer might be right between a 176 cm and a 186 cm ski on the recommended weight chart. That customer can be put on the longer ski to enhance the glide, and then the binding would be moved forward to maximize their grip on that longer ski. Advantages are like fine tuning a driver in golf, or a handlebar stem height on a bike, or strings in a tennis racquet. With other Nordic binding systems once you mount the binding you are stuck in that position!"
XC ski boots are a very important aspect of XC skiing comfort and it makes great sense to ski on some different brands. Do you want your boots to feel like a comfortable sneaker or do you desire the substantial support of a stiff sole? Is the toe box area of the boot creasing in a comfortable spot when you're skiing? Do your heels rise when you lift your foot? Is the boot too tight or too loose? Should you get custom insoles for your boots to make your feet feel more comfortable?
Have you tried XC ski poles recently? Ski poles have different grip straps that are easier to use and you may find that they are more comfortable and effective than traditional ski pole straps. Sunglasses are a great item to test. Do they fog up when you get sweaty? Do they feel so tight that you might get a headache? Are interchangeable lenses available for times of low light or bright sun?
Dedicate part of your ski day to the demo and try more than a few skis, poles, and boots. It should be fun and then you can make informed decisions when you purchase your next set of XC ski equipment and you'll feel great that you bought the perfect gear. For a nationwide demo day and introduction to XC skiing and snowshoeing click Winter Trails. Check the XCSkiResorts.com What's Happening Page for some demo day listings or contact a XC ski area near you to see when they will conduct their next demo day. SIA Photo of SIA Nordic Demo at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa
There is archaeological evidence that domesticated dogs (and dog harnesses) accompanied humans in northern Native cultures as far back as 15,000 years ago. Today people can hop on a sled pulled by dogs over the snow for a great time to explore the winter wilderness and share that Native experience.
Dog sledding is suitable for people of most ages, who have a sense of adventure and don't need dogsled experience or special gear. Often warm clothing and boots are available from the outfitter. With the assistance of expert guides, you can drive your own dogsled on a scenic variety of beautiful trails along the river, across a frozen lake, or through forested trails. Today's dog sled adventures offer a multitude of options from one-hour guide-led runs to overnight and weeklong camping trips among the Native villages in the Arctic.
All of the states and provinces in North America that are covered in snow during the winter have dog sled outfitters and here are a few examples:
Wintergreen DogSled Lodge has lovely lakeshore lodging in Ely, MN with fabulous views & fireplaces and they are famous for fine food and mouth-watering meals. Wintergreen also offers Arctic treks in Greenland or Norway and is known for their lodge-based dog sledding vacations and dogsled camping adventures at one of the only resorts devoted exclusively to dog mushing. Parent-child pairs trips are popular at Wintergreen DogSled Lodge.
Nature's Kennel in McMillan in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan operates a touring business to teach others the joy of running sled dogs on half or full day tours. There are full moon sled dog rides and an adventure to the falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Each year, Nature's Kennel guides speak to thousands of adults and children across the Midwest about the dedication and teamwork it takes to fulfill a dream. Patrons receive a kennel tour, a chance to hold the adorable puppies, and the opportunity to drive their own dog team on a 10-mile loop. Nature's Kennel also operates from Boyne Highlands Ski Resort.
Professional guides with Mahoosuc Guide Service in Newry, Maine have dog sledding vacations, trips, and tours. Mahoosuc has been recognized as a Top 5 outfitter in North America by international authority "Mushing Magazine." Their musher-friendly dogs are all personally raised from puppyhood. The guides are very experienced and willing to share their knowledge on winter ecology, tracking, campcraft, the history of the area, and stories of their travels in the north. The folks at Mahoosuc also handcraft wooden sleds, snowshoes, toboggans, and canoes. Northern native cultural trips are an option and there is also a wilderness emergency medicine training course available with Mahoosuc Guide Service.
In Vermont, Eden Dog Sledding and the Eden Mountain Lodge offers a winter stay and sled adventure package and educational dogsledding adventures for couples and families. Their goal is to provide a healthy, happy home for their dogs that are raised free-range and never chained. Eden gives guests of all ages a hands-on, educational, lifetime experience. Tours are personalized and include learning to put together a dog team, harnessing and hitching the dogs to the sled, and touring along specially designed and groomed trails. In non-snow months Eden's "dog carting" is a sled on wheels.
The Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel is a premier dog sled operator in New England offering year round dog sledding adventures at its kennel in Jefferson, NH on the north side of Mt. Washington. The adventures range from 2-50 miles (including overnights) and their dog sledding experiences are designed to be hands-on to the comfort level of the guests. Participants aged 2 and older are given the opportunity to meet and greet rescued and second-chance sled dogs, to help harness and hitch the team, and even help drive the sled (at musher discretion for guests and dog safety of course). Muddy Paw also offers 60-minutes rides at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods.
Biathlon is now on target at many XC ski areas across the country. The sport of biathlon combines cross country (XC) skiing and target shooting. The roots of biathlon are traced to Scandinavia in the mid 1700's, and currently in Europe it is the most popular winter sport attracting 700 million annual television viewers. XC ski areas in the US are now offering programs with real 22 caliber biathlon rifles, laser rifles, and even paintball markers (guns).
Biathletes race 5 kilometers (3 miles) on XC skis before shooting a rifle at five targets 50 meters (164 feet or 54 yards) away. They have a pounding heart and shaking legs with cold fingers and must take five shots. It may be cold and snowy while the sport entails concentration for precision rifle marksmanship. The competition includes shooting from a standing position and a prone (lying down) position. Depending upon the venue, the penalty for a missed shot may be a one minute added on the competitor's time or skiing a penalty lap.
The Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, NY has scheduled biathlon lessons on 32 selected dates December-March, with experienced instructors where skiers can head out to the range under careful supervision. The "Be a Biathlete" program is on the actual shooting range used by Olympic athletes in the 1998 Olympics held in Lake Placid. The "Discover Biathlon" program and package for $55 includes a one-hour ski lesson and use of a rifle at the biathlon shooting range. Skiers can pay $16 for a shooting only one-hour session where they are informed about safety before they go to the range.
In a similar program at Soldier Hollow Cross Country Ski Resort in Midway, UT you will be provided with ten clips of five shots each, for plenty of opportunity to learn and improve. The highly accurate rifles are the very same rifles used during the Olympic Games held in Utah in 2002. After range instruction and practice, a "mini' fun competition is staged for participants. Programs are coordinated by reservation for minimum of two people, who can ski or snowshoe and there are three program levels starting at $29 for adults and $19 for kids.
In the spirit of this Olympic year, Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee, CA announced a new Junior Biathlon program led by former US biathlon team member Tom McElroy. This program will be an introduction to the winter Olympic sport for children in second through eighth grade.
Biathlon was first adopted as an Olympic sport in 1955 and "competitions were held at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley," said Sally Jones, manager of Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, which is just around Lake Tahoe from the original site of the Sqauw Valley Olympics. Children who participate in the new program will be coached to improve their skiing skills and also learn marksmanship and gun safety using specially designed, 100-percent safe, laser biathlon rifles.
Tahoe Donner also has new biathlon clinics for adults and children interested in learning about the sport of biathlon. After range instruction and a brief background on biathlon history, participants will get a chance to ski or snowshoe a short loop and then practice their skills trying to hit targets with an elevated heart rate. This is a 1.5-hour clinic is $30 and scheduled on Dec. 22, Jan. 5, and 12, Feb. 8 and 17.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, VT initiated the Paintball Biathlon, which brings the aspects of biathlon to 250 kids in a one day event to ski and target shoot with paintball markers (guns). For the ski area, using paintball is a less expensive way to host biathlon. Skiers in paintball biathlon are rewarded with time deductions for each target they hit. Midway through each lap, the skiers visit the shooting range where identically sighted paintball markers (guns) await them to take their shots before skiing off for another lap. The event draws youngsters from across the region and is geared to have fun on snow. It has introduced the sport to kids and some of them are now participating more seriously in high school biathlon teams.
Other XC ski areas with biathlon programs The Nordic Heritage Sport Club Center in Presque Isle, ME will hold the International Youth/Junior World Championships for Biathlon on Feb 28-Mar 7 and US Team Trials for the competition will be on Dec 28-30. At Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, MT it's a cornerstone of winter activity and there is a free "Try Biathlon Day" on Jan 4. There's also paintball biathlon in Gunstock, NH, Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT, and other programs at Blackhawk, WI, Sun Valley, ID and Anchorage, AK. Check Google or other web search service for a biathlon club or program in your area. Photo: Biathlete Lesson; ORDA Dave Schmidt
There was extensive coverage about fat bikes in the media last year (it's hot) and there's a photograph of a person riding a fat bike towing a Christmas tree on the cover of this year's Patagonia Holiday Catalog. Fat bikes were recently dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" in the Wall Street Journal. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure less than ten pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington are now allowing fat bikes also called snow bikes to be used on their groomed trails and offering rental bikes, too.
Fat bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle industry. There were 10,000 fat bikes sold since 2010. They provide a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season. In eastern Washington's Methow Valley Sports Trails (MVSTA) the winter season can be longer than all other seasons combined and it was one of the first trail networks to embrace fat biking. They saw it as a new, exciting way to get outside and recreate and for the passionate XC skier interested in fitness, it provides another way to cross-train. Last winter, there were 500 rentals with only 16 fat bikes at Methow Cycle & Sport and this was an increase of 60% above the previous year.
Fat bike products are available from companies such as Surlybikes.com and Salsacycles.com and even the mainstream company Trekbikes.com among others.
According to a recent survey by the Cross County Ski Areas Association there are at least 28 of the XC ski areas, which now welcome fat bikes on their trails. Flagstaff Nordic Center outside of Flagstaff, AZ is running a snowmobile on 25 km of the snowshoe trails to accommodate fat bikes. The bikes ride much better on packed trails compared to riding on soft snow. Fat bikes can be rented at Flagstaff Nordic for $35 on weekends plus a $10 trail fee, and they offer a 40% discount on weekdays ($20) while charging a lower trail fee on weekdays ($7), too.
One avid snow biker describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter as, "Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love…Nordic skiing. Hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There's an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you "can" ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!" Surveys show that 71% of fat bikes were introduced to the sport at a demo, borrow, or rent the bike that they are riding. And 64% of the fat bikers said they would pay to ride on groomed trails.
Fat bike trail offerings are assessed on a day-by-day, snow conditions, user compatibility basis. Information on the trails that are open to fat bikes is available daily on the MVSTA grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid MVSTA day pass will be required for snow bikes.
Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $10 at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, Vermont to $20 during the week at Flagstaff Nordic reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, Colo, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. It's $55 at Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, VT and they suggest rider use the bikes on the nearby Kingdom Trails, where there are bikes to rent, too. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, WA has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. They have rental bikes at the store and on site near 5 km of trails at nearby Sun Mountain Lodge. Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adaptors for customers who wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice. Other XC ski areas that have fat bikes on location to rent include Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich at $15 per hour and California areas with fat bikes include Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure and Royal Gorge where there are 10 km of trails available and rentals for $20 per hour.
As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $2,000-6,000). Like any other equipment the low end is probably less reliable and the high end includes bells and whistles or are built with carbon fiber construction.
Currently, the issues for fat bikers include skier/biker relations and conflicts, variable and changing snow conditions, impact on trails, and building fat bike-specific trails. Fat bike riders are asked to follow a code of etiquette because they can damage trails groomed for classic and skate XC skiers. A typical list of XC ski area "conditions of use" include:
* Riders need to purchase a trail pass to use the area's trails and tell the ticket vendor that they are planning on fat biking.
* Trail access is dependent on conditions and they should check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information.
* Purpose built snow bikes only! Both tires must be wider than 3.7" and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions!
* Bikes should yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth. * Stay off trails with more than 3" of new snow.
* If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line, or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely should not be biking on the trails.
* Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we'll all have a good time this winter.
* Stay on trails designated for Fat Biking.
The biggest disparity between going cross country (XC) skiing on your own through the woods and XC skiing at a commercial XC ski area is trail conditions. Trail grooming at commercial XC ski areas (that charge a trail fee) refers to using a vehicle with attachments to rework the snow to provide consistent ski and trail conditions.
A compacted trail surface with set tracks will help skis to glide forward with minimal energy loss so that skiing is easier, beginners can learn to ski under control more quickly, and skiers can go further more efficiently. Icy trail conditions can be renovated and made skiable, and trails with little snow can be made skiable and last longer. Other important grooming situations include packing new snow to decrease wind susceptibility and conditioning deeper snow pack on high traffic trails, instruction areas, and down hills.
According to the "Cross Country USA Ski Area Development Manual" by Nordic Group International, "Good trail grooming is somewhere between a craft and an art," but the most prevalent factors to grooming the XC ski area trails include the snow conditions, temperature, humidity and exposure, the type and size of vehicle and attachments, and operator skills.
Chris Meyers of Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about his 26 years of trail grooming commenting, "For the skier, you want it to be easy to ski and you don't want it icy." He goes out before sunrise when the humidity is lowest and it is coldest for his grooming to get better compaction of the snow. Also, there're no skiers on the trails at that time. As the sun comes out, the trails set up.
In general, ski trail groomers use a snowmobile or a large snowcat and each has its benefits and detriments. To the ski area operator, the significant issues include the cost of acquiring the grooming vehicle, the cost of fueling and maintaining the vehicle, depreciation, and finding a reliable skilled groomer (operator).
"Snocats" are big tractors with treads, which employ front and rear attachments (such as snowblade, tiller, powdermaker, compactor, or tracksetter) to rework the snow. Doug Edgerton of Yellowstone Track Systems and distributor of the Ginsu Groomer shared information with XCSkiResorts.com about the cost of trail grooming saying, "The big vehicles can cost $200,000 for a new one, but many ski area operators purchase used grooming vehicles and attachments. Running a large vehicle could cost in the range of $75-100 per hour. Gasoline alone can be about $25 per hour. Smaller snowmobiles with attachments that are used for trail grooming can cost between $12-14,000."
Snow farming is used by many ski area operators to retain snow, create cache sites in drift areas and shovel snow for later redistribution. Wet areas can be covered in hay bales or hay over plywood to hold the snow. Snow fencing can be mounted on skis and towed to different trails to catch the snow during snowstorms.
Front blades on a snocat are used to move snow around and borrow it from trail edges or caches. Tillers are used to break up ice, crust, and ski-compacted snow. Snow rollers can pack the snow to prevent it from blowing away or melting too quickly. Of course, more areas are now investing in snowmaking to produce machine-made snow that has to be moved and conditioned on the trails.
The Jackson Ski Touring Center recently upgraded their fleet of snow grooming tractors with the addition of a brand new $175,000 state-of-the-art Kassborher PB 100 grooming vehicle, which was added a new grooming implement to supplement their early season grooming fleet. The new PB 100 grooming vehicle incorporates the latest in grooming technology and Jackson's Executive Director Thom Perkins said, "Over the years, we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing the surface of the trails to be able to groom with the first snow of the season. Skiers can be assured that with this new equipment, our crew will be able to provide even better skiing."
All in all, we have the trail groomers to thank for XC ski trails that are consistent, safe, and fun to ski. Photos: Maplelag Resort, MN (Top) Snocat trail groomer and (lower) snowmobile with rolling compactor.
Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means "skidriving." A team of one or more dogs pulls an xc skier and the skier "drives" or directs the team as he or she skis behind. In Scandinavia, skijoring has been done for centuries and it is gaining popularity in the US. It's easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.
The human aspect of skijoring requires skiing ability, dog training, and handling skills. Any XC ski gear can be used for skijoring and classic or skating ski techniques can be used. The type of ski selected depends on the experience that your desire such as how fast you want to ski and how far you want to go. Expect that a fast running dog on a groomed ski trail will be very quick and skating might be the best choice.
If you are new to XC skiing, it is recommended that you take ski lessons and practice prior to trying skijoring with your dog. Ski ability requires that you are able to control your speed, stop, and keep balance. But as previously mentioned, skijoring is a team activity and you should expect to work as hard as your dog. It is not a FREE RIDE!
Dog training and handling skills are equally important so it is useful if you and your dog have participated in an obedience class together. Key elements include being positive, patient, and consistent. Positive reinforcement is important with any animal training and short easy sessions will yield great results. You want to feel successful and gain confidence together.
No matter the breed (above 30 pounds), dogs have a strong instinct to chase, run on a trail, or hunt as a pack. While sometimes this instinct can result in unwanted behavior, when carefully shaped and trained, it also enables your dog to pull. One of the easiest ways to teach your dog skijoring is hooking him/her up with an experienced skijoring or sled dog team. Another method that works is to have someone ski slightly in front of your dog and call it, while you let it pull you.
Some dogs may learn immediately and others may take a little more work and encouragement, but keep things in perspective.
Dogs need adequate water and it is recommended not to run them on a full stomach. They can overheat in warmer temperatures (above 40 degrees) and dogs with thin coats (such as pointers) can get too cold. You might consider dog booties for abrasive snow conditions (may take some getting used to) and for furry footed dogs, you should trim the hair on their paws or use oils (Musher's Secret) to prevent snowballs. If your dog is not regularly exercised, start with very short sessions and work up from there. Consult a veterinarian for advice about ideal running weight for the breed of dog that you own.
The gear for skijoring is lightweight and simple. Booties have already been mentioned and a harness is necessary to connect you with the dog. A webbed harness when pulled to complete length stretches from your dog's neck and chest to the base of his/her tail. A good fitting harness should allow a dog to run and pull efficiently and safely. It is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable skijorer help to fit your dog's first harness. A bungee lead (a leash with a bungee cord sewn inside of it) is useful to prevent jerking motions and ease the stress of pulling on your dog. You will also have a harness around your hips and legs and these come in a variety of styles that should fit so that you can move and ski efficiently. A safety release between your harness and the line connecting you to the dog is very important.
Communication and Sharing
When you are ready to go, with a friend in front to encourage your dog, let him/her start pulling and give the command "Let's Go!"
There are many commands you will learn as a skijorer such as "whoa" or stop, "on by" meaning leave that irresistible distraction alone and keep going, "gee" means go right and "haw" means go left. "Come around" means turn around. Taking a class in skijoring will help you get started the right way.
While on the trails with your dog please be aware of trail etiquette. Respect the guidelines at an xc ski area and stay on the dog-friendly trails that are specified. Loose dogs can be an annoyance and even a danger to both skiers and other dogs. Be aware of others on the trail.
Louisa Morrissey teaches skijoring clinics at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO on Jan 5, 19, and Feb 2 and 23 at 10 AM -12 PM. At Frisco Nordic Center has skijoring clinics in Frisco, CO on Jan 25 and Feb 8. Also private lessons with advance reservations are available through the Aspen Animal Shelter. For more info about her programs see www.highcountrydogs.com
Trailside lodging in charming country inns meets some of the most quintessential cross country (XC) skiing in the East this winter at Jackson, NH. With a variety of new ski, snowshoe and stay packages, it's easy and affordable to stay a night, weekend or longer – and save and relax.
Ski right from your doorstep of the Riverwood Inn in the heart of Jackson Village with their "Ski Free" Package. Two-night rates start at $125 during non-holiday weekday periods and include two Jackson Ski Touring trail passes. A Sunday through Thursday non-holiday weeknight package is also available, with four nights for the price of three. This package includes two trail passes, two snowshoe passes and use of the Yellow Barn for secure ski storage and tune-ups.
The Christmas Farm Inn and Spa's Family Ski Adventure Package gives parents and children an opportunity to enjoy more than 100 km of trails together, a full American breakfast, afternoon tea and cookies and access to the inn's indoor pool, hot tub and fitness center. Midweek, two-night rates start at $258 (based on a family of four) in a traditional inn room.
Snowshoers can take advantage of two packages offered the Inn at Ellis River for Two Night Midweek or Weekend Snowshoe Nature Tour Packages (January-March). The midweek package starts at $289 for a classic room, $349 for a fireplace room and $439 for a room with a Jacuzzi tub. Included in both packages are two nights lodging, gourmet country breakfasts, afternoon refreshments, one evening candlelight dinner at a local restaurant, a snowshoe tour and one-day snowshoe rentals for two. Weekend packages start at $389 for classic rooms, $469 for fireplace rooms and $509 for rooms with a Jacuzzi tub. Taxes and trail passes (except for the tour) are extra.
Guests experience a guided snowshoe tour through the winter wonderland with a Jackson Ski Touring Foundation naturalist. Tours are scheduled Saturdays at 10 AM and 1 PM, Sundays at 10 AM and Tuesdays at 1 PM. This tour is perfect for both beginner and experienced snowshoers.
Novice skiers can take advantage of the Wentworth Inn's Ultimate Learn to Cross Country Ski Package. This package includes two night accommodations in a deluxe room complete with a private outdoor hot tub, a four course candlelight dinner, full country breakfast and everything you need for a day of cross country skiing: lesson, equipment and a full day pass. After skiing, soothe muscles with a couples massage and enjoy Swiss fondue for two in the Après Ski lounge. The Wentworth package starts at $502 for two guests.
Additional ski, snowshoe and stay packages are available at Whitney's Inn, the Inn at Jackson, Wildcat Inn and Tavern, and Eagle Mountain House. For a complete listing and links to local inns, visit www.jacksonxc.org/skiandstay.
The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is a community based not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, chartered to maintain trails in and around the charming Village of Jackson, NH. The "Foundation" maintains 150 km of varied and breathtaking XC ski and snowshoe trails 2 hours north of Boston. Foundation trails connect with A.M.C. trails in Pinkham Notch and White Mountain National Forest backcountry adventure trails. The Foundation operates under a Special-Use Permit with the White Mountain National Forest, and with the cooperation of 75 private landowners, and the Village of Jackson. More information about the Foundation and its offerings can be found at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has combined with the town of Breckenridge in a public private partnership to develop a new 9,200 square foot log lodge on Peak 8, which has become the new base of the BNC operations as of January. Gene and Therese Dayton, long time proprietors at the center spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about the development sounding like proud parents of a beautiful new baby, "The new facility called the Oh, Be Joyful Log Lodge houses all of the Breckenridge Nordic Center operations including areas for lounging, a loft and mezzanine, space for retail and rental operations, a snowcat garage, a full basement, restrooms, and two employee units so the groomers can be on site for storms."
Therese Dayton said, "The lodge sits nestled beneath massive mountain peaks that are white capped year round. It is all brand new, but looks like an old National Park Lodge and it sits on the edge of the Town of Breckenridge's Cucumber Creek Preserve. The new location is teeming with wildlife and has an easy topography for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and XC skiing."
The Daytons described the construction project as a "labor of love." It began in October 2012 and the lumber was harvested from the Pine Beetle devastation in the area. The logs were milled and lathed at Dayton's local sawmill operation and the log peeling and staining were done by hand. The building will be energy efficient with foundation insulation panels and thick roof insulation to make the log structure more weatherproof. The construction also utilized 110 spruce trees that were felled during the Breckenridge Ski Area gondola project.
The new lodge has great vistas, trail access, interior space for retail and rental operations, as well as larger and more desirable restroom facilities. The log lodge has an Old World "Black Forest Nature" theme with wood carvings, and wildlife artwork featured throughout the spacious Grandview Room. The huge handcrafted Spruce and Douglas Fir log posts and truss beam structure overhead, reveals a wide open feel with the cedar branch loft railing on the mezzanine level, the Lodgepole Pine Beetle killed tongue and groove ceiling, Arkansas moss rock stone fireplace, Information Guest Services desk, and Supreme Gold granite Cafe Bar top all with comfy in-floor heat over Red Pine flooring at your feet.
The Daytons worked with 14 landowners and 7 homeowner associations in planning and the site is right on the local bus shuttle route. Landowners donated land for open space and recreation. The town also worked cooperatively grading the parking, which is paved with asphalt and lighted, with dense Spruce trees and Colorado native landscaping and wildflowers. Patrons can easily drive right up to the front door for a quick Skier Drop Off under the covered Porto Cochere that'll be especially nice for families with small children, elderly folks, and/or guests with disabilities.
The Savory Spoon Cafe & Wine Bar serves grab n' go food/drinks, as well as warm and hearty homemade soups/chili, fresh green salads with plenty of toppings, and hot grilled sandwiches, and more. Seating is available on the warm fireplace hearth, in the lounge dining room, or outdoors at the South Cafe table or on the West Grandview Patio.
The town granted access to the adjacent property in the Cucumber Gulch Preserve, where the historic Joses mining cabin is located and the wildlife is plentiful. The Breckenridge region is known for the 13 pound, 7 ounce gold nugget that was found in 1887 by Tom Graves, who nuzzled it like a baby to keep people from discovering it. "Tom's Baby" as it is known is still on display at the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver.
The lodge is at 9,800 foot elevation and it has window views of the Ten Mile Range and Breckenridge's Peaks 6 and 7. For local XC skiers and those traveling to Breckenridge as a destination, there are 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails and there are also 18 kilometers dedicated for snowshoers. In the summer, the lodge will host nature programs, weddings, and other events. Connected to US Forest Service land, the Breckenridge Ski Area, and Summit County land the facility is adjacent to endless trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. As a year round recreational facility, the Oh, Be Joyful Log Lodge will put Breckenridge on the map to become a mecca for XC skiers and snowshoers.
The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2013 Participation Study recently published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 3,307,000 cross country skiers in 2012-13 (winter season). This was the second consecutive decline of the cross country ski population, with a decrease of 23% from the previous year. Other 2013 snow sport populations were: alpine = 8,243,000; snowboard = 7,351,000; snowshoe = 4,029,000.
The age group information of snowshoers showed 33% under 24, 42% in the 25-44 age group, and 20% in the 45-64 age group, while 5% were aged 65 and above
The gender of cross county skiers in 2013 according to the survey was 60-40 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Other demographic information included that 49% of cross country skiers had a household income above $75,000 annually and 59% had an educational level of a bachelor degree or higher.
The survey projections divided cross country skiers in the USA by geographic region. There was 15.9% of cross country skiers in the Pacific states, 18.2% in the MidAtlantic (NJ, NY, PA) region and 10.4% in the Mountain region. The North Central region remained the largest representation of the cross country skier population with 26.7% and 8.7% of them were in New England. The remaining 20% of cross country skiers were in the 17 states of South Atlantic and South Central regions.
The average retail prices for cross country skis in 2012-13 in specialty stores was $170.43 per pair of skis and $119.37 per pair of cross country ski boots.
Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 49.3% of cross country skiers enjoyed walking for fitness and 43.4% were also into hiking. 42.9% of cross country skiers are runners or joggers and 38.7% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces while 34.5% of cross country skiers also snowshoe. 45.8% of cross country skiers also alpine ski.
The Participation Study looked at ethnic demographics and cross country skiing's largest group of participants are Caucasian 69.5%. The other groups amidst cross country skiing included 13% African American, 4.9% Hispanic, and 5.3% Asian or Pacific Islander.
When asked about where cross country skiers ski, 37% responded that they go to public ski centers, 35% went to private ski centers, 20% skied in the backcountry, and 8% said they skied in other non-groomed terrain. It would be assumed that many cross country skiers visit all the different venues during the winter and it is unknown whether cross country skiers understand the terms with regard to public and private ski facilities. For example, is a ski area that is owned and operated by a non-profit organization considered a public or private ski center?
The average number of days cross country skiers participated in 2012-13 was 9.4 days. Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing (61.9%). Other encouraging factors had similar statistics in the mid-to-high twenty percentages including being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments. Can more people overcome these obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Kelly Davis, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with XCSkiResorts.com.
Nordic snow pros or ski instructors teach the sport for the same reason to celebrate the community and culture of the sport and to share that experience with as many people as possible. Professional ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors while some prefer teaching beginners, or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.
PSIA-AASI is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs. The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications). These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Chris Frado, commented, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."
The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in xc and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.
From professional development to expanding your abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping you make your time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. PSIA-AASI membership consists of both registered and certified members. Once you join the Association you become a registered member. When you take and pass your Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, you become a certified member or instructor.
PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. And, it provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.
The organization has more than 31,000 total members, hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, PSIA-AASI's magazine 32 Degrees, discounts on products from official suppliers, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.
The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in VT, 3 in NH, 3 in NY, 2 in ME, 1 in MA, 1 in WV). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If you're interested in sharing the passion of cross country skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact www.thesnowpros.org or in Canada www.cansi.ca/en/ to find your respective division.
Skiers visiting a commercial cross country ski resort can feel comfortable knowing that if they get injured there is most likely a ski patroller on site during their visit. But who are these patrollers?
Since 1938 the National Ski Patrol (NSP) has served the public and outdoor recreation industry providing education and credentials for emergency care and safety service. The NSP has had a Nordic division since the early 1970s, and these Nordic patrollers provide venue coverage at Nordic ski resorts, services to backcountry enthusiasts by interfacing with the National Forest Service and different park agencies, and can be an integral aspect of local search and rescue groups.
The diverse nature of the Nordic classification lends itself to be a unique program within the NSP. These patrollers who work at ski resorts, in the backcountry, and at alpine ski areas use a variety of equipment types, and know the extended patient care knowledge required and the needed backcountry survival skills. This all contributes to defining what Nordic patrollers do.
Nordic Patrollers are educated with a comprehensive manual and Nordic ski enhancement seminars offered by NSP regional divisions. These are effective tools to build strong confidence and proficiency on the trails. The NSP is standardizing the program throughout the divisions, so the same tools are applied for patrollers to succeed and a quality assurance plan is being put in place to ensure that the NSP members meet high standards.
Mountain Travel and Rescue (MTR) courses provide a variety of skills, including nutrition and how the body performs in a wilderness environment, weather patterns, survival skills, working with group dynamics, an introduction to search and rescue, rope rescue skills, improvised toboggan construction, and land navigation with map, compass, and GPS. The MTR courses are taught in classroom and field sessions including mock scenarios to ensure the attendees can apply what they have learned to real life situations.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast looking to expand survival and travel skills in the backcountry environment or a ski patroller preparing for one of the worst possible scenarios a parent can face at a ski area (a lost child), the NSP has a range of training. NSP also covers fundamental principles of avalanche hazard and work with mountain search and rescue groups. Patrollers who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain are trained in navigation, emergency rescue, and even survival skills.
Can there be a more rewarding role on the snow than to help someone in need? To find out more about training programs, membership benefits, regional programs, and credential requirements at the National Ski Patrol, click http://www.nsp.org/about/joiningnsp.aspx
Among some women, the "Girls' Getaway" weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.
A girls' weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and good wine, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. XCSkiResorts.com has found a list of women's programs for the upcoming winter 2013-14 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.
The Lapland Ladies Love to Ski is an instructional cross country ski program that runs 3 times a winter and has been ongoing for about 10 years. It is designed for women and taught by women at Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY. Female participants, who are beginner or intermediate level skiers, register for the program for a one-time activity or for all 3 outings. They are grouped to learn and practice ski techniques and they all have lunch together followed by a presentation about cross country ski equipment, clothing, and other topics. After lunch the group is self-divided into smaller groups for a social ski tour out in different directions on the trails and then back in the lodge for a hot beverage and a chocolate goodie at the end of the day. Classic skiing on Jan 11 & Feb 8; Skate skiing on Mar 1. The $40 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.
The Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat, CO has the Share & Save (starts at $335 per night with a 3 night minimum) program offer during certain times in the season. There are three meals a day, cross country ski instruction, guided backcountry ski tours, equipment to use, cooking classes, wine tasting, sleigh rides, horseback riding, photography workshops, and evening entertainment. Such a package includes transportation from the airport to the resort and there are many extras offered to extend the memories such as dogsledding, alpine skiing, massage, and premium wines at an additional price
Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA has the Women's Ski & Yoga Retreat on Feb 28 & Mar 2 with yoga, meals, ski sessions, and relaxation.
Lutsen Resort in MN has the Girlfriends Getaway Package for anytime of year with a bottle of champagne, breakfast, dinner, a spa treatment, guided tour with complimentary XC ski or snowshoe gear (or hiking, biking, or sea kayaking in the warmer months) and galleries and shopping in nearby Grand Marais. Photo: On the lake shore in winter at Lutsen Resort.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN has the Women's Wellness Retreat, which includes getting outdoors in nature for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, and massage. A number of girls' getaways at Maplelag are organized by patrons, who have visited the resort with their families and then return another time with other women to enjoy a variety of activities such as quilting, knitting, book discussions, board games, and so on. The family style meals at Maplelag make it easy for the groups to engage and there's the added bonus that none of the gals have to cook during the weekends, either.
Larger participatory women's programs include the Inga Lama Women's Weekend held at Minocqua Winter Park in Minocqua, WI on January 11 for a celebration of women at a winter evening of moonlight skiing with wine and snacks back at the Chalet. The next morning there's a ski or snowshoe tour with breakfast at the Tea House followed by more socializing and fun.
Steamboat Touring Center has the Colorado Ski for Women program on January 26 and the Catamount Trail Association runs the Ladies Nordic Ski Expo at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT on January 11. The New England Women's XC Ski Day is scheduled at Bethel Inn Resort in Bethel, ME on February 9 with gear demo, lunch, prizes, gear demo, and wrap up party.
One multi-year women's weekend participant jokingly cited "verbal profuseness" as the prime characteristic of her getaway experience with female friends. Such getaways may have a distinct purpose such as high performance fitness exercise or healthy wellness activities or they could incorporate different themes, but it is the composition of the group, which determines the vibe for the weekend. Check the XCSkiResorts.com Women's Event Page for a comprehensive list of this winter's women's programs.
Cross country (xc) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of xc skiing, low sliding speed, and free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at xc ski areas are not busiest employees at the xc ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.
According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by xc skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.
Traumatic xc ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since xc skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.
Overuse injuries (75%) from xc skiing, for example could include knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to xc skiers. Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.
Think about dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!
Ask the general public to name an alpine skiing “Mecca” — described as a location where people, who share a common interest, yearn to go — even those who don’t ski can come up with at least Aspen or Vail, if not Killington and Sun Valley. But mention the Gunflint Trail or the Methow Valley to cross country (xc) skiers and more often than not, you’ll elicit a blank stare. Yet these are just two of several xc skiing destination resorts that devout xc skiers revere. In fact, each of the following five regions is definitely an “xc skiing Mecca” — each one, a destination that all traveling xc skiers have put on their “must visit” list.
Comprising the small, picturesque towns of Conway, Sugar Hill, Bartlett and Jackson in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Mount Washington Valley has a half-dozen xc ski areas, all at the base of the most majestic mountain in the eastern U.S., the 6,288-foot Mt. Washington. Here, the spectacular scenery is enhanced by hundreds of inns, lodges and restaurants, plus unsurpassed outlet shopping. Ski past mountain streams, a white steepled church, or over a wooden covered bridge on the network of 150 kilometers (km) of trails that glide past numerous inns and stores and through the woods in Jackson Village.
Up in Pinkham Notch, Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center features 40 km of trails for cross country or snowshoeing and the more adventurous can take a snowcoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to unparalleled views and then make the choice to ski, snowshoe or ride the coach down. On the other side of Mt. Washington, Bretton Woods Nordic Center has its Mountain Road Trail, a 7-km downhill thrill that might be the most fun to be had on xc skis in all of New England. Franconia Inn is tucked away but is known for great cuisine in the evening and more than 50 km of trails. The region also has dog sledding, snowmobiling, zip lines, and 7 alpine ski areas to round out the snow sports offerings.
The Hills are Alive
The “Sound of Music” is more than 40 years old and another production by the Von Trapp family, America’s first xc ski center at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont is just two years younger. Nestled beside Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, the lodge is among the most famous and diverse xc ski trail networks in the country. Three Stowe xc ski areas interconnect to provide roughly 150 kilometers of groomed trails, and there’s a link to backcountry ski 14 km to Bolton Valley Nordic Center via the Catamount Trail. Plus, with the variety of trails for snowshoeing around Stowe, it’s no surprise that the quintessential New England village is the original home of Tubbs Snowshoes, the largest snowshoe manufacturer in the world. Stowe's Recreation Path, which runs 5.3 miles along the river (and over 11 wooden bridges) and Route 108 is perfect for an easy snowshoe jaunt. Don't miss the Vermont Ski Museum with its Nordic Exhibit in downtown Stowe or the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream headquarters (most popular attraction in the state) in nearby Waterbury, Vt.
Scandinavians settled by the thousands in Minnesota so it stands to reason that their national sport, cross country skiing, would abound in the state. The trails in northeastern Minnesota near Grand Marais offers more than 200 kilometers of groomed trails in the Laurentian Highlands adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here, xc skiers enjoy moose yards, overlook ridges, old trapper trails and railroad beds. The Gunflint attractions include extensive stands of white birch, spruce, and aspen and spectacular cliffs.
Of course, in the land of 10,000 lakes there’s a multitude of frozen lakes and there is also a great chance that visitors in northern Minnesota will see the oscillating luminary curtains in the evening sky known as the Northern Lights. Perfect for those wanting to get away from it all, this area is less populated than other xc Meccas and the region is sprinkled with many isolated lodges, bed and breakfast inns, lakefront cabins, and yurts (large circular heated tents with hard floors, bunk beds and room for 6-8 people). And count on hearing the distant howls of timber wolves.
More than 70 years as a winter sports destination, the Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, area was developed by railroad mogul, W. Averell Harriman to attract train travelers. Known for its alpine skiing, the area features more than 160 kilometers of trails and now it touts itself as "Nordic Town USA." The North Valley Trails run from the Galena Lodge back to town along the river and are run by the Blaine County Recreation District. Expect to see colorful performance striders and skaters alongside snowshoers out walking the dog on this popular avenue.
For superb backcountry skiing amidst forests of pine and aspen, head to the Sawtooth Mountains and its high mountain reaches laced with granite spires and inviting cirques. Here xc skiers can enjoy trekking and guide services, even overnight accommodations in backcountry huts and Mongolian-style yurts. For nostalgia buffs, the movie “Sun Valley Serenade” with John Payne, Sonja Henie and the Glen Miller Orchestra runs continuously on closed circuit viewings at the Sun Valley Lodge.
The Methow Valley in northwest Washington on the eastern slope of the North Cascade Mountains is one of the best kept secrets among xc skiers. A network of 200 kilometers of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing combines at Methow Trails with lodges like Sun Mountain Lodge and warming huts along the trails, which are surrounded by more than a million acres of national wilderness and forest lands.
Snowfall here is not only plentiful, it is also dry thanks to the moisture traveling across 100 miles of mountains from the Pacific Ocean to get to Methow. And after the snow arrives, a crystal blue sky almost always follows revealing the incredible scenic mountain panoramas. Located only 2,000 feet above sea level, this 40-mile-long xc skiing valley requires no altitude acclimation.
Many other North American regions could make the list of xc skiing Meccas, including Michigan's Grayling and Higgins Lake region, California’s Lake Tahoe, Colorado, Lake Placid in New York, and Canada's Quebec and British Columbia areas. Start your own list of “must visit” xc ski destinations, and use XCSkiResorts.com to explore the many choices and then make some reservations for your next winter adventure.
There have been studies done about exercise intervention for clinical populations diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even post traumatic stress disorder. This research shows that there are beneficial effects that produce a statistically relevant and significant reduction in these mental maladies. The following few paragraphs provide info from some articles that covered the topic of using exercise as a good strategy for therapists to employ.
In the 4th century, Plato reportedly quipped, “For man to succeed in life he has been provided with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” The CDC cites health benefits associated with a range of physical activity and in its absence there can be an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, etc. Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders such as those listed above.
There is evidence for the effectiveness of exercise training in patients with panic disorder impacted by a number of psychological factors such as increased self efficacy, a sense of mastery, distraction, and changes of self-concept. Can or will psychologists prescribe such an exercise intervention as part of therapy for their patients? It would seem to integrate perfectly with cognitive behavioral therapy strategies such as situational analysis, self monitoring, homework activities, and supportive follow-up to help compliance.
Physical fitness will also improve self-esteem and as patients feel better about themselves they’ll develop a more optimistic and energetic frame of mind. There is also an association between aerobic exercise and increased alertness. The exercise improves circulation and increases the availability of oxygen to the brain while it also causes the body to produce chemicals such as adrenaline to promote mental alertness. Fitness can instill a sense of pride and confidence and allow the mind a pathway to escape from everyday stress. Biologically speaking, exercise is said to cause the brain to release beta endorphins, which are essential in relieving pain and create a sort of euphoric or light happy feeling. This overall mood enhancement can be prescribed to help treat depression and anxiety. Regular exercise will also invoke focus, determination, and discipline, which are mentally strengthening.
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are the top forms of aerobic recreational activities. And aerobic activities have been found to promote mental health, boost energy, improve sleep, relieve tension and stress, and combat anxiety and depression. There is a real proven link between physical fitness and mental health and well-being. We should get moving on this!
How do we encourage more psychologists to enroll their patients in outdoor fitness endeavors as part of therapy? There will be benefits from such strategies at a wide range of levels from getting someone out on rental snowshoes for 3 short weekly hikes to training for a 50 km skiathon.
A strategy to bring together xc skiing or snowshoeing and professional therapists can be developed. The skier can create a prescription for a routine for skiing or snowshoeing a number of kilometers a few times per week and the therapist can schedule sessions or maybe even hold the sessions on the trails. What would that be worth an hour including trail passes? Maybe xc ski areas can sell transferable season passes to therapists in a package? Maybe health insurance could cover the cost of and encourage such a winning strategy.
XC (cross country) skiers hate when snowshoers step on and mess up their groomed ski tracks and they both hate snowmobilers; while snowmobilers don’t want xc skiers and snowshoers using the trails that were paid for with snowmobile registration fees...and they all are freaked out about getting tangled up with sled dog teams! All winter trail users have the right to enjoy their chosen outdoor recreational experiences and their commonality is that they do not want their rights restricted in any way. In the winter, trail encounters between snowmobilers and other trail users must be expected. When these encounters inevitably occur, people should respect each other’s love of the outdoors and be considerate. That’s not a rule, an enforceable law, or a line in a list of codified responsibility dogma. It is the way to live.
While the vast majority of encounters between different winter trail users on the snow such as mushers (dog sledders), snowshoers, snowmobilers and xc (cross-country) skiers are friendly and respectful, there are some conflicts that occur and some resentment that does exist. Additionally, unsafe situations such as collisions, reckless behavior or poor judgment can occur. These situations can be compounded by damaged trail surfaces, narrow passageways, conflicted trail uses or trail congestion.
Other factors that may contribute to a problem on shared trails include trail user speed, mass of user or vehicle, sight distances, size of the group, users overtaking one another silently or without warning, user skill and experience and user expectations and preparedness. Add to that people’s different values and priorities and their tolerance for others’ lifestyle choices and it’s no wonder that you have a recipe for possible conflict.
In the Other Person’s Shoes
The most obvious way to prevent conflicts on the trails and promote safety for those who share the trails is to learn and understand each other’s perspectives. For example, many xc skiers and snowshoers are not aware that snowmobilers must pay a state registration fee, which is allocated to trail grooming. Snowmobilers have worked hard to secure landowners’ permission to develop and use their networks of trails. If xc skiers do not want to mix with other trail users they have the option of skiing at “skier-only” commercial ski centers that groom specifically for skiing, where snowmobilers are not allowed. And there are state and national park areas that restrict snowmobiling, too.
But snowmobilers may not realize deep-rooted resentments that many xc skiers have for the motorized trail users. Some skiers and snowshoers regard their solitude in nature as holy. They may feel that mechanized trail use is inappropriate and are angered by the inefficient two-cycle engine noise and exhaust. Snowshoers and xc skiers lifestyle perspectives may prevent them from ever being aware of the sheer joy a youngster experiences when (s) he rides a snowmobile for the first time. Certainly, there is enough room and plenty of miles of trails so that all trail users can be satisfied. And perhaps there are areas with separate trails that are primarily allocated to specific uses.
Snowmobilers and other trails users can facilitate mutual understanding through the process of communicating and collaborating. The Lyme-Pinnacle Snowmobile Club in the western central part of New Hampshire has discovered some success in sharing the trails. While it is unusual, the club membership is comprised of one-third xc skiers. They regularly share the trails and they pitch in and help maintain the trails in the off-season, too. And there is more than one report of a lost xc skier or snowshoer, who was glad to see a snowmobiler, who provided safe transport back to the trailhead. Perhaps it’s time trail users get into each other’s shoes and try each other’s activity. Work on joint projects such as trail maintenance, repairing a warming hut, deciding where routes are successful and where they are problematic.
What to Do at a Rendezvous?
The NH Fish & Game OHRV Operation and License Statute states: Any person operating an OHRV shall yield the right-of-way to any person on horseback, foot, ski, snowshoes or other mode of travel on foot; provided however, that such persons traveling do not unreasonably obstruct or delay OHRVs on the trail. The law also states that the maximum speed limit unless otherwise posted is 45 miles per hour.
There may be a code, trail etiquette, or laws of the land for snowmobilers and other trail users when they come upon each other, but what really matters is that people just use common sense. For example, obviously snowmobilers should be prepared for anything when approaching a blind curve, which suggests slowing down, being aware and keeping the sled under control.
Upon hearing the approach of a snowmobile, xc skiers or snowshoers should get off the trail in a place where they can be easily seen. They should give the snowmobiler room to pass, and be more wary if there are many people in either party. Skiers and snowshoers should also keep control of ski poles to avoid the sled as it goes by. Traditional yield rules and signage ask the machine operator to yield, but it is just much easier for the trail user on foot (or ski) to step off the trail.
XC skiers that use snowmobile trails often employ the skating method of skiing. This technique crosses the trail in a perpendicular fashion, substantially more than the traditional diagonal ski technique. The skater splays each sliding ski outward at an angle to glide longer and faster. This is usually a more encompassing exercise and snowmobilers should be aware that skating skiers might not be able to hear an oncoming machine very well. Their level of exercise and the sound of wind and sliding skis on crunchy snow can impair hearing somewhat. That is one good reason that snowmobilers, who may have newer quieter machines should not assume that other trail users will always hear them coming.
Mushers (dog sledders) recommend that as they approach head on, other trail users should get to the side or off the trail and let the sled dogs pass by. It’s best to try and communicate about each other’s intentions. Keep in mind that the sled dogs will try to keep to the inside of the trail on a curve to find the shortest path, so you should not automatically think that pulling off to the right is always the best option.
Interestingly, horseback riders suggest that other trail users talk it up when they come face-to-face. It is important that the horse understand that you are a person and not some robot contraption. Luckily, seeing equestrian enthusiasts on the winter trails is a rare occurrence.
People familiar with the trail sharing issue will often refer to the fact that there are very few problems on the trails. A common phrase is that problems occur with “less than one percent” of trail users. There is also concern about young people and others, who might act recklessly or are using snowmobiles for the first time. Skiers, who ski on the snowmobile trails but are not aware of the issues discussed in this article, are of particular concern, too. We must try to reach all of these “one-percenters” to prevent tragic consequences and keep the trails safe for all to use.
Backcountry access is now a service at more cross country ski resorts (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/resort-features.php#Anchor-6262) and whether you refer to it as backcountry, out-of-bounds skiing, sidecountry, or off-piste skiing, such terrain accessed by skiers and snowshoers equipped with a sense of adventure, the latest powder gear, and exuberance to descend a mountain side in deep powder is intoxicating. But xc skiers can end up in dire circumstances, completely alone and on their own in trouble.
Some xc skiers have an insatiable appetite for untracked powder, which can override educated decisions when determining the acceptable risks. How to combat the possibility of catastrophe when accessing the backcountry within or outside the ski resort’s terrain, requires arming yourself with knowledge and the basis for sound decision making. The factors involved in off trail mishaps also often include human behavior and Mother Nature.
As more skiers and snowshoers access the off-trail terrain other issues such as increased use may impact safety. If a slope has been trafficked by dozens or hundreds of other backcountry users, it does not always mean that it is safe. Snowpack stability, route selection, and potential terrain hazards are all significant in the decision making for safety. While some ski area managers try to minimize the risk to off-trail users (such as “cleaning” gladed terrain areas), there are realities that include the skier’s individual choice and self reliance. Of course, there is a much better chance that help is nearby if a skier is in trouble within the ski area boundaries, but it still may take a while before help arrives.
It is important to for skiers and snowshoers to be educated and prepared and be able to assess the risks of backcountry activity even within the ski area boundaries. In these litigious times, there may not be ready-made pamphlets to promote safety in the backcountry because few writers and publishers want to be liable. But one example is, the Falcon Guide entitled “Cross-Country Skiing,” (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/equipment.php#Anchor-1010), which has sections on Route Finding, Winter Hazards, and First Aid that provides useful info.
These are just some of the issues to be considered as more people ski or snowshoe off trails and more issues will arise as more ski areas open access to ungroomed terrain.
It has been said that cross country skiing and snowshoeing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get away with your loved one to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve. The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic XC ski resorts across North America (in alphabetical order).
Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise, AB – The Chateau is a grand old resort with all the trimmings and places for romantics to enjoy each other and an outstanding rear window panorama of the Victoria Glacier.
Franconia Inn is a charming country inn located in Franconia, NH with breathtaking views of the nearby mountains and intimate trails. The inn offers the "Romantic Interlude," which includes a bottle of champagne, 4-course gourmet dinner and a full country inn breakfast.
Galena Lodge, Ketchum, ID – The Honeymoon Yurt is a love nest that is only 20 minutes out on the trail. Couples can enjoy the backcountry accommodations in comfort themselves and get dinner delivered and maybe even a massage for two.
Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, MT – Near Yellowstone National Park, the ranch has cozy cabins, a lodge with great cuisine, massage services and a staff that treats all of its guests warmly.
Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior in Lutsen, MN has the "Romantic Getaway" including a bottle of champagne, candlelit dinner, whirlpool and fireplace in your room, and breakfast with optional massage for couples.
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY – A Victorian castle within an hour of NYC with free use of xc skis, snowshoes or ice skates. Climb the Sky Top Tower for a 360 degree vista. The spa has instruction for couples massage.
Mountain Top Inn, Chittenden, VT – This resort is buried in the Green Mountains, where you can sit fireside in the restaurant with a wonderful menu or in the pub with live entertainment. Sled on the hill behind the inn, take a horse-drawn sleighride or enjoy extensive trail network.
The Nipika Mountain Resort in Kootenay, BC has a secluded lodge and cabins. Couples are transported to the site, which is situated in 8,000 acres of wilderness with 36 feet of guaranteed snow. The resort is the ultimate eco-resort without high altitude problems.
Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, WA – There is a 360 degree view of tranquility with guest rooms and lakeside cabins, extensive wine cellar and spa services.
Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, CO – Guests are limited to 30 so the staff can insure personalized attention. Couples can share a guide into the backcountry and special cuisine at this secluded retreat in the Steamboat area. Photo: Happy couple from Fischer Skis
A recent visit to Bolton Valley Nordic Center in Vermont afforded me an up close look at the newest sensation in cross country skiing – backcountry access at a commercial xc ski area. Bolton boasts having 62 km of high elevation backcountry ski trails including steep winding trails through birch glades, mellow trails for touring, and plenty of powder turns on the way back down.
In mid-February while much of New England was wondering when winter would begin, Bolton Valley Nordic Center with its base elevation of 2,100 feet has fresh snow and a reliable, plentiful base. The facility has 26 km of groomed trails, too. The rental equipment includes backcountry gear for either xc skiing or snowshoeing. The famous Catamount Trail is amidst Bolton’s trail system and there seems to be no limit to interest in this market segment. In fact, the grand daddy of xc ski areas, Trapp Family Lodge now offers 2,500 acres and 40 km of trails in the backcountry, too.
At Bolton Valley Nordic Center's eastern side, the Bryant Ski Trail takes skiers uphill on an hour trek to the Bryant Camp Backcountry Cabin (2,690 foot elevation). Not much to the building but it is a destination that opens into various trails further up the terrain. By the time I arrived in the late morning the trails were packed by previous skiers. I had a few chats with other skiers, who donned gear ranging from lightweight xc skis to heavy telemark gear with climbing skins, wide waxless skis with BC boot/bindings, and I even dodged a snowboarder careening down the packed trail on a split decision snowboard.
I had a conversation with a couple of skiers, who admitted to taking the Wilderness Lift at the adjacent Bolton Valley alpine ski area to ski from the Peggy Dow’s Trail to the Nordic area’s backcountry terrain and the Heavenly Highway Trail where I met them. I skied further up the Highway and then turned on to an aptly named trail called Devil’s Drop, which was really a downhill powder run with switchbacks.
Clearly, you want to ski these trails on a day with good soft snow conditions. The trails are well marked and with skiers dropping down into untracked lines through the trees the upper trails can be a bit confusing. It appeared that after skiing around a few times it would be more comforting as one becomes familiar with the upper trails. There is an overlook named Stowe View and another trail where you can reach a destination named Olga’s Falls. The Bolton-Trapp Trail uses the Catamount Trail (Vermont’s lengthwise winter trail) between the Bolton Valley Nordic Center and Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and this reaches the highest point on the Catamount Trail at 3,310 foot elevation.
The west side of the Bolton trails covers another entire area to ski and looking at the map contours it is appealing for some downhill fun. The backcountry area also has some delineated glade areas on the trail map and one would imagine that there could be much more of these cleaned areas to give skiers more to enjoy.
Trapp Family Lodge offers guided tours in the backcountry for $35 hour and there is a 3-day package with rental equipment, skill lessons, and a full day tour for $250. Bolton has backcountry rental gear for $30.
Uphill Transport for Skiing the Glades
About a decade ago, alpine ski resorts came to the realization that gladed areas (skiing in the trees rather than on the groomed slopes) between trails offers great fun to skiers. They have created safe glades on gentle terrain by eliminating underbrush, smaller trees, and rocks so there is more room for skiers to pick their way through the forest (somewhat) safely. Glade areas for advanced skiers offer steeper terrain and more obstacles.
Call me a heretic, but I feel that the time has come for xc ski area operators to accept that there are many skiers who would like to access these backcountry stashes without having to climb and get so tired. Clearly there is a portion of the skiing population who would pay for transport up to higher elevations to access these areas so they can enjoy the downhill runs. For a few extra dollars above the trail pass, such transport could be provided with an industrial snowmobile (which most resorts already use) pulling an attached trailer with seats. And maybe the snowmobile driver can stop at the top to take some photos of the skiers as they take off down the terrain. Skiers can purchase the photo documentation back at the lodge and get the photos emailed to their computer or phone so they can show their weekend adventure to coworkers on Monday morning at work.
I imagine that xc ski resort operators might feel that such a service is the domain of alpine ski resorts...but xc ski areas could offer a more natural service within the context of xc skiing and snowshoeing. People like high places and the product supplier companies have recently produced a proliferation of off-track and backcountry equipment. This type of xc ski resort service has arrived.
On a preseason visit to Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY, I was given a true taste of Finland. This is cross country skiing Finnish style from the resort owner, Olavi Hirvonen to the authentic woodburning sauna and the two resident reindeer on site.
Olavi and Ann Hirvonen have operated Lapland Lake for more than 30 years and visitors’ testimonials speak to their friendly, caring, and personal customer service that is Lapland Lake. Actually, the resort is tucked away in the town of Benson situated 60 miles northwest of Albany in the 6-million acre Adirondack Forest Reserve.
In February 2010, Olavi celebrated the 50th anniversary as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in Squaw Valley. He participated in two events and in the 50-kilometer distance he finished second among the US skiers. His performance was marred by a broken ski, which compelled him to proceed 1.5 miles on a single ski before he was able to obtain a replacement. Olavi applies that compulsiveness to overseeing the trail grooming and after winter storms he has the Lapland staff clearing twigs and branches off of the trails. Olavi works in the rental and repair shop, certainly a labor of love for the octogenarian, while Ann focuses on most of everything else.
The kids line up to spin on a sled upon the frozen pond, where a Finish experience called Napa Kiikku has the kids on a sled that is attached to a pole protruding through the ice. The “Ski-like-a-Finn” lesson package helps first timers to get the hang of xc skiing with rental gear, a trail pass, and a lesson. And from the looks of it, the trails are mostly on comfortable level terrain so that skiers need not climb too much or worry about out-of-control downhill experiences. There are a total of about 50 kilometers of trails with nearly 40 km that are groomed, 2.5 km lighted for night skiing and some panoramic views of nearby Woods Lake.
I sampled a small comfortable cottage called a “tupa” for overnight lodging and walked through the Lapin Tupa, which is a bigger dwelling that can be rented as private rooms by couples/individuals or shared by a larger group. The tupa where I stayed had electric heat, two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a small family room, and a woodstove. And when the snow is abundant, skiing from the front door and around the property will have you shouting tervetuloa (greetings) to others.
The Finnish Line Lodge is Lapland Lake’s main facility in a two-story building that literally rose from the ashes as it burned to the ground years ago, was rebuilt and now houses the retail store, rentals, fireside lounge area, and upstairs at the Kuuma Tupa snack bar for soup, chili, or a beverage. The Tuulen Tupa Grill is a dining room that has lunch and a catered dinner menu and it is slated for redecoration by the Hirvonen’s daughter, who is studying interior design and will undertake the project during her college break.
Lapland Lake welcomes people to cross country ski and snowshoe from kids and seniors, to ladies and teachers in weekly group programs that are scheduled. It has received the 2011 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor among other recognition awards in the past. Ann Hirvonen stopped during our tour of the area and revealed that this was the spot she liked to stand at night to look at the twinkling lights of the tupas in the winter - knowing that people are enjoying it makes running Lapland Lake all worth it to her. You’ll say tavataan ladulla or “see you on the trails.”
Ski for Light, Inc. is an organization founded in 1975 to teach blind, visually- and mobility-impaired adults how to xc ski, in an atmosphere that encourages participants to recognize that they can usually accomplish much more, both on the snow and back home in everyday life.
Each year Ski for Light, Inc. conducts a week-long event where blind and mobility-impaired adults are taught the basics of cross country skiing. The SFL week in 2015 skiing will be held at Snow Mountain Ranch in CO on Jan 25 - Feb 1, 2015. The location of the event changes from year to year in an effort to spread the Ski for Light philosophy and idea to as many parts of the country as possible.
During the Ski for Light week each disabled skier is paired for the entire week with an experienced, sighted, cross-country skier who acts as ski instructor and guide. The disabled person skis in tracks or grooves in the snow, while the guide skis along side. The guide offers instructional tips and suggestions, support and encouragement, and describes the countryside.
The blind and mobility-impaired adults, who attend the Ski for Light week, come from all over the U.S. and from several foreign countries. Many of them come to Ski for Light with a desire to become more physically active and fit, and to find recreational opportunities that are lacking at home. Most of the SFL skiers discover, in the process of learning how to xc ski, that they can accomplish much more than others have told them, and much more than they themselves believed. They leave Ski for Light with a sense of accomplishment and motivation that carries over to every aspect of their lives back home.
The volunteer guides, who attend Ski for Light, are a very special group of people. They pay the same event fees as disabled skiers so that they can share a favorite activity with someone who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate. Most of these guides discover that in the process of giving of themselves they are getting as much or more back in return. Many of them return to each event, year after year.
The organization is always seeking new guides and participants (visually impaired or mobility impaired) and word-of-mouth is how most first-time attendees are attracted to the program. Please help spread the word to anyone, who might be interested. Information about the event and application forms for the next event and at regional events around the country are available at www.sfl.org. Those interested in attending or volunteering for SFL may also call (612) 827-3232 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics held in 1960 led the way to many technological advances that shaped today’s operation and broadcasting of the Winter Olympics. The Nordic event venues built in Tahoma, CA are now covered with dense new growth as all of the structures, which were temporary, have been removed. The land located on Route 89 about 10 miles south of Tahoe City on the west side of Lake Tahoe is now the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.
The Nordic venues and practice areas for the men’s 50 km, 30 km, combined, and relay races were held in the General Creek and McKinney Creek areas, which were privately owned when the Squaw Valley Olympics was in the planning stages. These games were also the first time that the biathlon and women’s 10 km were included at the Olympics. The 57 km of trails were developed in 1958 and completed in 1959 for a test run championship.
The 1960 Winter Olympics were the first time the winter competitions were ever nationally broadcast on TV. This was also the first time that sno-cat grooming vehicles were used to mechanically groom the race courses. Tucker Sno-cat machines towed agricultural choppers and tines to “tenderize” the snow conditions. They had yet to think of track setters in today’s terms, so skiers set the tracks by skiing behind the grooming machines. The downhill sections were raked by hand.
Another first was the use of electrical and manual timing. To keep spectators abreast of the competition, interval times of the racers were taken along the trail and were phoned to the stadium area where they were announced to the spectators and posted on the scoreboard.
Since there are few remnants from the Nordic events remaining, there is now an effort to reinvigorate these “forgotten Olympics” in a partnership with the state park to reestablish the trail network, construct interpretive panels and trail markers, and develop a museum of historical artifacts. Currently there is an Olympic exhibit at the Reno Airport and there is some signage at Sugar Park Point State Park. For more information there is a book by David Antonucci entitled “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games,” which is filled with information and photos.
Want a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising? XC Skiing is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise but if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your xc skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.
Here's a cross section of the culinary xc ski events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.
Smugglers Notch in VT has Sweets and Snowshoes every Wednesday night 7-9 PM for adults only. Hot cocoa, coffee, and 3 desserts await snowshoers after a 30 minute trek to a pavilion and campfire. A warming meal of hot soup, bread and beverage at a trailside cabin is a destination for the Soup and Snowshoes guided trek mid-day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and on Tuesday nights there's a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit.
Eastman Cross Country's Nordic Nibbles in Grantham, NH on January 19 has a Scandinavian theme with a visit to a fire pit at each stop for cheese from a local smokehouse, Lindt chocolate, gingerbread cake and pastries, local dairy milk for hot coco, soup, and the main meal from 11 AM - 1 PM.
The Sweetheart's Chocolate Tour at Bretton Woods Nordic on February 15 with a self-guided tour to stops for sweets from 10 AM – 4 PM. And enjoy the Sweetheart's Ski or Snowshoe Tour by candlelight at 7-8 PM that evening.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on February 23 is an inn-to-inn affair at 10-12 stops to experience your chocolate fantasies including moose and fondue. Go on a tour of any length and actually gain calories, even if you ski as far as 20 kilometers. A shuttle is also available for those that have overindulged at the event dubbed the "Sweetest Day on the Trails."
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails on March 1 at 11 AM - 2 PM.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO hosts the Grand Huts.org Progressive Dinner on Feb 15 with a multi-course meal at outposts along the trail in a fundraiser for the huts.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 22 features goodies from 20 different local restaurants at three trailside stations with up to 100 desserts within a 4 kilometer loop. Their motto is, “It’s not a race, just a gorge fest.”
Crested Butte Nordic Center has has a yurt reached by a 2 km ski or snowshoe tour where 10 gourmet dinners are offered during the winter including the Full Moon Dinners @ the Yurt and the Valentine’s Dinner.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, ID for the Full Moon Dinners on nights associated with the full moon, whereby you can go ski or snowshoe (half price rental gear offered) and then return to lodge for a 4-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, and a Valentine's Day Dinner.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has the Glide & Gorge event on March 9 from 11:30 AM-2 PM with trail luncheon stationed with appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts from the Ranch's four-star kitchen, local brew, wine, music and shuttles. There's also a trailside one-stop buffet every Friday that can be reached on foot, snowshoes, or skis located so that one can either begin or finish their outing with the feast.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA has a Valentine's Full Moon Ski/Snowshoe Tour & Dinner on Feb 14 and the Taste of Truckee presenting food from local restaurants along the trails on Mar 23.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC has Chocolate Fondue Tours on Friday and Sunday nights starting at 6:30 PM and the Cheese & Chocolate Fondue Tour on Fridays and Sundays at 6 - 10 PM. Tours are organized by pre-registration. Ladies Only Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour on Jan 10, 24, Feb 7, 28, and Mar 14 at 6:30 PM.
Is there a difference between cross country skiing at a commercial center and “in the woods?” Are people aware about the difference between designed trails at a commercial xc ski area compared to cross country skiing in a field, in a local park, or on a trail in the forest?
One of the greatest obstacles for xc skiing growth is the common notion of a lone xc skier going into a narrow dark trail as if the very isolation in the woods was the goal. Interestingly, some ski areas have marketed that isolationism, but there are a few things that focus on the average recreation enthusiasts’ experience that are offered on designed trails at a commercial xc ski resort.
Often trails that are built by loggers and the government parks’ people have long straight ascents and descents and they are boring. Most average skiers are very afraid of the speed of a long downhill. Instead, trail designers such as John Morton of Morton Trails recommend undulating and twisting trails that spark interest on every turn and also help slow down the speed. Destinations, scenic vistas, and accomplishment upon arrival make great sense on xc ski trails and these are characteristics of what well-designed trails should provide.
Most commercial xc ski resorts charge a fee between $15 and $29. For that fee the patron (hopefully) get a business operation and trails that:
Yes, admittedly many people can xc ski out their back door in the backyard, on a local golf course, or on a trail in a nearby forest and it is very convenient to do so. But commercial xc ski resorts offer a different skiing product. New Hampshire’s Jackson Ski Touring Center, emulated by hundreds of xc ski resorts across North America could be thought of as quintessential because it provides a perfect example of most of those services and amenities. The investment required to supply the list of services above is no small number (snowcat grooming machines and such), but Jackson has something more and it is called the “culture of xc skiing.” This is why Jackson can be considered one of the true meccas of xc skiing.
Of course, the major issue with noncommercial cross country ski trails is about snow conditions. The whim of the weather rules the snow and without trail grooming and trail maintenance, the snow can be to hard packed, icy, sticky, too deep for nonpowder skiers, or too inconsistent to offer a good experience.
The statistics have shown over many years that less than 20 percent of xc ski outings are at commercial resorts. Skiers that experience the other 80 percent of the xc skiing outings are missing out on the list of services above and many of them are not even aware that those services exist. It needs to be spelled out for them and an effort needs to be made to differentiate commercial ski area experience from backyard skiing.
Adventure Guides for a Great Winter Experience
These days, cross country skiing is easy on groomed trails due to improvements in ski equipment and regular trail grooming. But, the secret is that great winter ski experiences can be had as a guided adventure in the backcountry.
Perhaps the term backcountry skiing paints pictures of avalanches and extreme skiing movies. The fact is that this type of cross country skiing can mean anything from a quiet morning tromp through the woods, getting back in time for a bowl of hot soup in front of the fireplace, to a challenging all-day trip to the top of the world. You can maneuver your skis up hills and then swoosh back down...but if you don't want any hills, you can ski over frozen snow covered lakes, alongside rivers, or through meadows.
Guides can virtually hold you by the hand or offer a recommendation for a self-guided tour. They can suggest appropriate equipment and clothing to make it a more comfortable experience and they can offer ski instruction to a first timer. Expect an experienced guide to help intermediate skiers master higher skill levels or lead advanced skiers on more extreme expeditions reaching new heights.
Adventure guides can plan your trip to match your skill level and desired intensity. The value of a guide is that your comfort level is increased multifold. That is because the experienced guide knows about trail and terrain selection to fit the skier level; he or she knows technique tips to help successfully crossing terrain in different types of snow conditions, but most of all the guide will give you personal attention and help you to avoid backcountry calamity.
A resort vacation is great, but while you're there take half a day with a guide to ski off into the untouched powder where the snow is fresh and fluffy. The pace might be like a hiking trip - where you can hustle along if you're looking for a killer workout, or just take your time and enjoy the scenery. Most ski guides love to talk, too - so expect some gab about local historical, geological or interpretive to provide a more informative and interesting experience.
Another guided adventure option to try is dog sledding with a guide. It's the experience of the Alaskan Iditarod on the trails. Work with a team of dogs. In New Hampshire there's Muddy Paw Kennel Dog Sled and Whitewater Rafting and in Maine contact Mahoosuc Guide Service in the Bethel region. In Vermont check Eden Dog Sledding & Mountain Lodge. In Minnesota contact Wintergreen DogSled Lodge and in Michigan there's Nature's Kennel.
Guide services to backcountry adventures on XCSkiResorts.com include Vista Verde Ranch in CO; Jackson Fork Ranch in WY, Sun Valley Trekking in ID; High Peaks Adventures in NY; Coopers Rock Climbing Guides in MD; Bredeson Outdoor Adventures in CT and VT; International Mountain Climbing School in NH; and Swan Mountain Ranch in MT. Other guide services include Randonnee Tours in Eastern/Central Canada; Northern Cascades Mountain Guides in WA; White Pine Touring in Utah; Alpine Skills in CA; and Yellowstone Expeditions in MT.
Since the time that wooden skis were found in a peat bog in Sweden dating to 2,000 BC, there have been many milestones that brought xc skiing to where it is today. Focusing on the USA, the forefathers of our recreation include people such as Snowshoe Thompson, who delivered the mail in the Sierra Mountains of California and JackRabbit Johannsen, who xc skied in northern New York.
The editors of XCSkiResorts.com using various sources considered the milestones and developed this list of the Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA in order of significance:
Plan to gather up the kids and head to the hills during the school breaks next winter. No need to head to warmer climes - winter can be snowy, yet mild, and perfect for a family vacation with plenty of activities such as cross-country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing. According to the experts, who regularly update XCSkiResorts.com, the nation's top XC ski resorts are exceedingly family-friendly with lots to enjoy together both on the snow and off. What families want and need is exactly what an xc ski vacation delivers: multi-generational participation, quality time and shared memories.
There are special touches such as talent shows, child-friendly classes and family style meals to help your XC ski and snowshoe vacation become the perfect memorable getaway with your loved ones. Families can find resorts that offer the perfect combination of carefree atmosphere and picture-perfect views together with beautiful lodging, family dining, and expertly groomed trails and learn how they can enjoy the winter outdoors together. The following are top suggestions from the site:
Lapland Lake Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY has nightly bonfires on the weekends and the kids love to play Napa Kikku, which is a Finnish game on ice with a sled and a pole. Kicksleds, tubing, ice skating and parents use pulk sleds to pull the kids along the xc ski trails.
Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, ME has family programs to engage kids and adults with outdoors and educational activities such as XC skiing, mountain biking, equestrian, exploring life and animals on the farm, apple cider making, butter making, milking a cow, carving pumpkins, and much more.
Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT is one of the most famous family resorts where the hills come alive with the "Sound of Music." In the Green Mountains of Vermont, Trapp Family Lodge is a paradise for families with a fitness center, an indoor pool and the Mountain Kids Club provides playtime, craft time and movies for kids.
Smuggler's Notch Resort in Smuggler's Notch, VT has a dynamic lineup of family programs with 1,000 acres for alpine skiers and snowboarders, teen centers, kids camps and FunZone play area, resort village with shops and restaurants, condo lodging, and walk-to free shuttles. There's xc ski and snowshoe trails, winter walking, ice skating, and more. Recognition for family focus has been awarded by numerous magazines.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota is run by a 3-generation extended family and this resort has families coming back year after year. They serve family style meals and host a talent/variety show, which is a big hit for families. The state’s largest hot tub, famous bottomless cookie jars, sledding, ice skating, and XC ski/snowshoe trails combine to make this one of the most popular family destinations.
As the name implies, Palmquist Farm in Brantwood, WI is an XC ski center on a farm that offers kid-friendly animals such as horses and a dog. There are sleds to use on sliding hills and ice skating pond, plus horse-drawn sleigh rides and kids rental ski equipment. They say that a visit to Palmquist's is like coming home to Grandma's house.
Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO has outdoor adventures from XC skiing and snowshoeing to Zipline, horseback riding and laser biathlon. There are "cowpoke camps" for overnight guests with kids in half and full day programs, heated pool, movie nights, game room, and more.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO is a destination for the whole family with the most affordable options for lodging which includes a Day Pass covering a weekend kids program with outdoor fun and indoor activities such as a pool, climbing wall, roller skating, craft shop, and more.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has programs for outdoor youth adventures that include animal tracking, snowshoeing, tubing, snow kickball, obstacle Olympics, finger painting, scavenger hunts and ice cream socials. Parents will love the cuisine, massage and xc skiing on picturesque trails.
You'll be amazed by the giant trees in Sequoia National Park and Monument near the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park, CA. There is a daylong program for children, which has a break for the family to join together during lunch. The kids build igloos, go tubing and XC skiing or snowshoeing on nature hikes to see and learn about animal tracks. At night there is a dance, karaoke and bingo.
For people interested in traveling to xc ski resorts this winter, here is info about making a destination selection from the editor of XCSkiResorts.com.
In general, xc skiers select their winter xc ski destination resorts using some rating system of how xc ski areas perform in eight categories of criteria including trail quality and grooming, scenery, food quality, staff friendliness and service, the ski lodge facility and family issues. There is a great range of xc ski areas in North America and in the eyes of xc skiers these characteristics delineate areas without concern to whether the area is an inn, a ranch, a day area, a destination resort, or a recreation park area. I've purposively avoided the issue of cost - whether you like to travel to distant resorts or only travel within your region, you will still compare the other criteria to select your destination resort.
The information below describes what a quality xc ski resort is all about in terms of services and amenities at some of the leading xc ski resorts in North America.
XC SKI TRAILS
Trail Quality relates to the skiers' comfort on the trails, even though those skiers might be at different skiing or experience levels. The trail signage should help skiers understand where they are on the area's trail network. And signs should help skiers know the direction that will help them return to their starting place. The trails should provide a skiing flow so there aren't too many long uphills or sharp turns at the bottom of steep downhills. One idea that is done at Lapland Lake in Northville, New York that makes trails seem less crowded is to have skiers go in the same direction (one-way). The result is that the trails never seem crowded. Jim Richards of Maplelag in Calloway, Minnesota said, "Feedback from the majority of our skiers let us know that they preferred double-tracked trails over single tracks. And we had overwhelmingly negative opinions about allowing dogs on the trails, too."
Some of the best xc ski areas are just blessed with great terrain for xc skiing. The location of Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California is perfect for xc skiing as the area's land diversity offers flat, rolling and more challenging variety. And Royal Gorge's "Sierra maritime snow consolidates well and is great for the base on the trails, which means that skiers can count on excellent conditions when they ski there."
Trail grooming can make or break the ski conditions. Olavi Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "We groom every morning unless we have to wait for the snow to dry out or cool off - and I groom the way I like to ski the trails myself." Hirvonen gets the Lapland Lake staff out on the trails after windy periods to rake and pick up the debris from trees like fallen limbs and pinecones because "I don't want the skiers to have to ski over the debris as it appears on the trails from the Springtime melt."
One thing that most of the best xc ski areas share in common is that they acquire and use the latest trail grooming technology to give them a mechanical advantage. They do not skimp when it comes to using snowcats with their grooming attachments to break up ice or powderize the snow into the finest trail surfaces.
Without getting into the details of grooming machinery and techniques, the personal pride of the area operators is paramount to the trail quality issue. Brian Wadsworth of Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana was a world class cross country ski racer, who groomed trails for eight years at the Ranch. He was selected by the Soldiers Hollow Olympic venue to groom the 2002 Olympic Cross Country Ski competition trails. He knows grooming from a technical and a skier's perspective. He knows the "best line tracks." But when he comments, "My goal is to be able to hold a World Cup race here any day of the winter" it sums up his pride and commitment to the quality of the trails at Lone Mountain Ranch.
STAFF SERVICE AND FRIENDLINESS
You know it when an area's staff is a great one - they seem happy to see you. In most instances, areas that have veteran employees have them because it is a great place to work. Most of these great employees do not need "customer service" training. They already have the personal touch. At Lone Mountain Ranch the staff has become "the hallmark in the industry," according to Wadsworth because they are "encouraged to create life-long relationships with the guests." Most of the people that work at the best xc ski areas want to work there as a lifestyle choice. This is apparent with their attitudes with the guests and about working at one of the best xc ski areas.
The Richards family, who own and run the Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota, treat their guests as part of their family. It may sound trite but their guests sincerely feel welcome and they state it unequivocally in testimonials. The staff often greets the guests by name. They Richards constantly ask their guests if there is anything that can be done and they drop everything to help their guests, be it in the lodge, on the trails, in the rental shop or at the dinner table. Richards feels, "One of us (the Richards family) is always around to help with our guests. It's fun to be talked to and pampered by the actual owners of the resort." Many testimonials from different areas claim the same thing with regard to their feelings about the service at the best resorts - they feel welcome, comfortable and "at home." And Maplelag avoids posting rules or signs saying "Don't do this or that."
XC ski lodges can be designed to provide space, convenience and efficient utilization, but there are also other factors that make a difference to skiers. Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "Clean is huge to us. We are cozy and convenient, but facilities such as restrooms can get pretty yucky, so we keep them in good condition throughout the day." Lapland also takes into account brown baggers (bring their own lunch rather than purchase food at the area) by offering them a picnic area. And they have a public shower and changing area for skiers, who want to clean up before their drive home.
At Lone Mountain Ranch, part of their ambiance is the historic facilities. Of course they have also added new updated facilities such as a dining room and some cabins, but many guests go there to enjoy the rustic and original facilities. "It looks like what people expect Montana to look like and we continue to renovate with cozy features such as antique furniture and old fashioned quilts to retain our historical aspects," said Wadsworth.
The main lodge at Maplelag is the area's group meeting place, and it is a living folk art museum. Jim Richards has collected unusual items from around the world. He stated, "We work very hard cultivating this look to be a feast for the eyes." There are nooks and crannies where people can sit and relax, read a book, play games with the family, etc. The lodge also houses the main dining room, hot tub, sauna, massage rooms, rental shop, gift store and it is where the Saturday night talent show and dance takes place.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Whether Nordic skiers bring a picnic lunch, stop at a trailside snack shack or relax with a first class dining experience, the best areas usually are known for their outstanding cuisine. Good food service is a result of the area's commitment, quality chefs with pedigree culinary backgrounds, wine selection, and so on. The Maplelag kitchen is run by Debbie, the chef who has been on the job on and off for 25 years. There is a window opening to the kitchen where guests can speak with Debbie and see the staff cooking the meals. They make everything from scratch using only natural and fresh ingredients. They call it homestyle, hearty, and wholesome and it is a unique menu that is endorsed by the guests. Richards' summarized, "Food is a real joy at Maplelag.
QUALITY FAMILY TIME
Some xc ski areas are highly touted for their commitment to families. They cater to family needs by "dealing with the kids." Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake says, "We are a family and we raised our daughter here and when you raise a family at a ski center, you focus on families. So our trails have plenty of flat terrain for kids and we offer pulks (sleds that skiers use to carry small children), children's sized snowshoes, skis, boots, and ice skates." XC skiing offers families an activity that they can all do together. And that can include a four-year old on Snoopy skis skiing right alongside of grandpa skiing on his pine tarred woody originals.
Child-oriented instructors are a key element for families. For the kids to have a positive attitude about Nordic skiing they must have positive first experiences. It is suggested that the most successful lessons do not intermingle children with their parents in the same classes. Kids get comfortable with child-friendly instructors as individuals and on subsequent visits the kids commonly request to take additional lessons so they can spend more time with those friendly instructors.
Another important way to cater to families is to offer a variety of other skiing and non-skiing activities. At Lapland Lake a game played in Finland called Napa Kiikku is organized on weekends and holidays. The game involves a pole on ice with a sled that goes around in a circle. Adult lessons are conducted to correlate to the time that the kids play the game.
Kids love a campfire by the lake, sleigh rides, or just playing on a big pile of snow. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont conducts many kids "classes" from swimming to puppet classes or making stuffed animals. The kids' classes provide parents with some child-free time for going on harder ski trails or getting a massage while the kids are being entertained.
Jay Richards (Jim and Mary Richards' son) of Maplelag commented, "Seeing our large family with our own kids running around, being involved makes families feel welcome here. We try to make parents feel at ease about having their kids run around." Maplelag cabins and cabooses are great accommodations that can fit large families and the Richards try to help families focus on being together doing family activities. Serving meals "family style" is a key element to the atmosphere. But so are the other family activities such as the dance and the talent show. Baby sitting services are available on site, too. Jay feels that one of the biggest reasons families visit is that there are many families already at Maplelag every time people visit and that makes families feel welcome.
Of course, there are other criteria for selecting winter destinations - for example, couples that are looking for a romantic weekend will have different needs (and desires). There is something more memorable about traveling to a destination compared to going to the local trail network for a couple of hours to xc ski or snowshoe. Whatever your interests, there is a perfect xc ski resort for you.